Major League Baseball
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  • Tuesday, October 21, 2014
    Royals sub Nix for Colon on Series roster
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Kansas City Royals made a minor last-minute change to their World Series roster before Game 1 on Tuesday, adding Jayson Nix in place of Christian Colon.

    • The swap of utility players is the only alteration to the Royals' roster from the American League Championship Series.

      The 32-year-old Nix was claimed off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates in August. He played in seven games for the Royals in the final month of the regular season. In 41 games overall this season, the well-traveled veteran batted .120 with one home run and four RBIs.

      Colon, 24, is a rookie called up by the Royals in July. He was on the ALDS and ALCS roster and logged two plate appearances in the postseason.

  • Monday, October 20, 2014
    World Series notebook: Giants hold experience edge
    By The Sports Xchange

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The San Francisco Giants have been here before, winning the 2010 and 2012 World Series.

    • The Kansas City Royals have not been to this biggest baseball stage since 1985, when they defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. That also was the last time the Royals were in the playoffs, so most of their players are postseason neophytes.

      Advantage Giants.

      "I can imagine any time you've done something more than your opponent, it's going to make it easier to understand the weight of the situation," Royals eighth-inning setup reliever Wade Davis said. "I think we're all pretty comfortable where we are right now. We've played in some pretty big games and beat some really good teams."

      The Royals are 8-0 in postseason play, sweeping the Los Angeles Angels and the Baltimore Orioles after rallying to top the Oakland Athletics in extra innings in the wild-card game.

      Both teams worked out Monday afternoon with the World Series set to begin Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium. Right-hander James Shields will start for the Royals against Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner.

      While the Royals have the home-field advantage, that does not faze the Giants, who are 16-5 on the road in postseason play since 2010.

      "That's tough to explain," Bumgarner said. "It definitely has worked that way for us. I don't know the numbers, but it does seem like we're not really affected much by being on the road. Obviously, you would like to be at home. Home-field advantage is a little bit of an advantage. But we're here, and we're playing the cards we were dealt."

      While Bumgarner will be working on his normal four days of rest, Shields has not pitched in 11 days.

      "Resting and some bullpen action, just trying to repeat my delivery in my bullpen sessions," Shields said. "I think this late in the year almost too much throwing is too much, so I've just kind of rested by body up for (Tuesday)."

      --Jarrod Dyson is the Royals' fourth outfielder and deluxe pinch runner, but he has become a go-to guy for the media.

      After the Royals won the first two American League Championship Series games in Baltimore, he predicted the series would not return to Camden Yards, and it did not.

      "It's not a time for a prediction," Dyson said Monday. "I can't give you guys no headlines, man. I'm sorry. That's my new name now, 'Headline.' (My teammates) gave me a new name because I give you guys a headline, talking crazy."

      Dyson stole third base on his own in the ninth inning of the wild-card game against Oakland and scored the tying run on right fielder Nori Aoki's sacrifice fly. If he had been thrown out, the Royals probably would have been eliminated.

      "That was a gutsy move by me. If I get thrown out right there, the whole city is ready to kill me," Dyson said with a laugh.

      --Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum, a two-time National League Cy Young Award winner, has not pitched since Sept. 28 and has not started since Aug. 23.

      Bochy said Lincecum had a good bullpen session Sunday.

      "We need to have him ready because you don't know what's going to happen in the game," Bochy said. "He's ready to go and he's healthy. It's an old adage, all hands on deck, and he's one of them. If it's the right spot, he'll be out there."

      Bochy said Lincecum, who went 12-9 this season with a 4.47 ERA in 33 games, including 26 starts, is mentally handling his situation "great."

      "Really been upbeat about it, he understands," Bochy said. "He's done so much, including this year. You go back to '12 and he was a weapon in the bullpen, and he could be that this series. I feel bad for him that he didn't get to pitch against Washington or St. Louis because I think a lot of Timmy.

      "There was never any thought of not having him on this roster. Not just having him on the roster, but the fact that he could help us at some point."

      NOTES: Bochy said Michael Morse would be the Giants' designated hitter for the series opener, with Travis Ishikawa, who hit the game-winning home run in the series clincher against St. Louis, playing left field. Bochy also said the Giants' World Series roster will remain unchanged from the group that won the National League Championship Series. The 25-man rosters must be set Tuesday. ... The Royals' Ned Yost said he is a completely different manager than when he managed the Milwaukee Brewers from 2003-08. "I think I've learned to let my players be themselves," Yost said. "Because I have great coaches, I think I listen a lot more than I did back then. I'm pretty hard-headed, a little more flexible, and use the tremendous experience we have in our coaching staff to my benefit and our benefit." ... This is the second time in the wild-card era (since 1995) two wild-card teams advanced to the Fall Classic. The previous time was 2002, when the Anaheim Angels beat the Giants in seven games. ... This is the second time two teams reached the World Series after recording fewer than 90 victories during the regular season (excluding the strike-shortened 1981 season). The Giants went 88-74, while the Royals finished 89-73. In 1918, the Red Sox (75-51) beat the Cubs (84-45) in the World Series.

  • Monday, October 20, 2014
    Cardinals' Jay to have wrist surgery
    By The Sports Xchange

    St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay will have arthroscopic surgery this week to repair a damaged left wrist, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported Monday.

    • Recovery time is expected to be 6-8 weeks, so he should be ready for Spring Training.

      Jay has been dealing with the problem since July, and cut his workouts short because of the pain. But it did not affect his production. He hit .325 in August and September and finished with a .303 average with three home runs.

      Jay was the only Cardinals player to hit better than .300 during the regular season, and he led the team in hitting during the playoffs, batting .483 (14-for-29). He had a .500 average during the National League Championship Series.

  • Sunday, October 19, 2014
    Report: Red Sox may trade Cespedes
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Boston Red Sox may look to trade outfielder Yoenis Cespedes this offseason, according to the Boston Globe.

    • The Red Sox reportedly expressed reluctance to re-sign Cespedes to a long-term deal after acquiring him from the Oakland A's in the late July trade involving left-hander Jon Lester.

      Cespedes, 29, has one year left on his four-year, $36-million deal he signed with the A's before the 2012 season. He is due $10.5 million next season.

      This year, Cespedes batted .260 with 22 home runs and 100 RBIs. In 51 games with the Red Sox, he batted .269 with five homers and 33 RBIs.

      Cespedes has a career batting average of .263 with 71 home runs and 262 RBIs in 416 major-league games over three seasons.

  • Sunday, October 19, 2014
    Giants fan swaps home run ball for Series tickets
    By The Sports Xchange

    A man who gave back the home run ball hit by Travis Ishikawa that sent the San Francisco Giants to the World Series received something special in return:

    • Tickets to Game 3 of the World Series in San Francisco against the Kansas City Royals.

      Frank Burke, the owner of a transmission repair business and a lifelong Giants fan, said he wanted Ishikawa, who hit the home run, to have the ball.

      "I believe in karma," he said, according to the Associated Press. "I didn't hit that ball ... if anybody's going to have that ball in their game room or trophy case, it's going to be the guy who hit it."

      Burke handed the ball over to Ishakawa in the clubhouse area after the game and received a signed bat. Asked by the team whether he wanted anything else, Burke requested World Series tickets. The Giants didn't think that was possible.

      The next day, though, the Giants called and said they had four tickets for Game 3. Burke wants to take a friend, Greg Leutza, who is battling cancer.

      The tickets and memorabilia are nice, Burke said, but that's not what's most important.

      "Just the memory for me and my buddy, that's priceless," he said. "That meant more to me than anything else will."

  • Saturday, October 18, 2014
    Royals to start Shields, Ventura in Series
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Kansas City Royals announced Saturday that James Shields and Yordano Ventura will start the first two games of the World Series against the San Francisco Giants.

    • Shields is expected to face Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner in Game 1 on Tuesday. Ventura will likely face San Francisco's Jake Peavy in Game 2 on Wednesday.

      The first two games of the series are in Kansas City.

      Shields is 1-0 with a 5.63 ERA in three postseason starts. Bumgarner is 2-1 with a 2.42 ERA in four playoff starts.

      Ventura has no decisions with a 4.85 postseason ERA in three games -- two starts. Peavy is 1-0 with a 1.86 ERA in two postseason starts.

  • Saturday, October 18, 2014
    Longtime Orioles infielder Roberts retires
    By The Sports Xchange

    Injury-plagued infielder Brian Roberts is retiring after 14 seasons in the major leagues.

    • The 37-year-old Roberts played for the New York Yankees this past season before he was released in August. He spent the first 13 years with the Baltimore Orioles but struggled with injuries during the latter stages of his career.

      With the Yankees in 2014, Roberts batted .237 with five home runs, 21 RBIs and seven stolen bases in 91 games and 317 at-bats.

      "It was just kind of my time," Roberts told the Baltimore Sun. "There were numerous reasons that I felt like I couldn't play at a level that I was accustomed to and wanted to play at if I continued to play. I always said that I wasn't going to be the guy that tried to hang on as long as I could."

      A two-time All-Star with the Orioles, Roberts finished his career with a .276 batting average, 97 home runs, 542 RBIs and 285 stolen bases in 5,531 at-bats and 1,418 games. He led the American League in doubles twice (50 in 2004, 56 in 2009) and in stolen bases once (50 in 2007).

      A herniated disc and strained abdominal muscle limited Roberts to 91 games in 2010. The following year, he suffered a concussion on a headfirst slide into second base in May that kept him out the rest of the season and until June 2012. A torn labrum on July 1 ended the 2012 season.

      In 2013, offseason sports hernia surgery and then another surgery for a torn hamstring forced him to miss 79 games.

  • Friday, October 17, 2014
    Astros' new coaches include Hillman, Pettis
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Houston Astros named former Kansas City Royals manager Trey Hillman as their bench coach and added former Texas Rangers third-base coach Gary Pettis to manager A.J. Hinch's staff on Friday.

    • Pettis will serve as the third base coach and handle baserunning and outfield play for the Astros.

      The Astros also announced that Dave Hudgens will be the team's new batting coach and Rich Dauer will become the first-base coach and infield instructor. Hudgens held the same job with the New York Mets.

      Hinch is keeping pitching coach Brent Strom and bullpen coach Craig Bjornson from last year's staff.

      Pettis replaced Pat Listach, who was informed this week that he was not being retained. Listach spent one year with Houston.

      "I'm very disappointed," Listach told MLB.com. "I understand it's a business, but I'm disappointed."

      Listach managed in the Chicago Cubs' minor league system before joining the Washington Nationals as their third-base coach. He returned to the Cubs as a bench coach and a third-base coach and then spent one season as the Los Angeles Dodgers' minor-league infield coordinator before going to Houston.

      Listach's playing career spanned from 1992 to 1997. He was named National League Rookie of the Year with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1992.

  • Friday, October 17, 2014
    MLB roundup: Shields expected to get Game 1 start
    By The Sports Xchange

    Manager Ned Yost remained evasive on who the Kansas City Royals starting pitcher would be for Tuesday's opening game of the World Series against the San Francisco Giants.

    • Then Yost tipped his hand Friday before a Royals' workout.

      "Shields threw a great game against them here, shut them out," Yost said.

      If anybody but "Big Game" James Shields starts the first game it would be shocking.

      Shields was acquired in a Dec. 9, 2012, trade with Tampa Bay for moments like this. He has been the Royals' Opening Day starter the past two years. He started the wild-card game against Oakland. He was the winning pitcher in Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Los Angeles Angels and started the American League Championship Series opener against Baltimore.

      Shields threw his only complete-game shutout this season against the Giants on Aug. 9. He limited San Francisco to three singles and a double, while striking out five and walking one. Of the 111 pitches he threw, 73 were strikes.

      --Don Mattingly will manage the Dodgers next season -- "definitely."

      Los Angeles' new president of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman, addressed a number of issues at his introductory news conference at Dodger Stadium. Mattingly's future topped the list.

      “We’re very aligned on a lot of things philosophically and have thoroughly enjoyed those conversations,” he said. “We’re going to get together next week and I’ll look forward to building that relationship.”

      --Pat Listach will not be back next year as the Houston Astros' third-base coach.

      The Astros let Listach know this week that he will not be joining new manager A.J. Hinch's staff. Listach spent one year with Houston.

      "I'm very disappointed," Listach told MLB.com. "I understand it's a business, but I'm disappointed."

  • Friday, October 17, 2014
    'Big Game' James Shields expected to start Game 1
    By The Sports Xchange

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Manager Ned Yost remained evasive on who the Kansas City Royals starting pitcher would be for Tuesday's opening game of the World Series against the San Francisco Giants.

    • Then Yost tipped his hand Friday before a Royals' workout.

      "Shields threw a great game against them here, shut them out," Yost said.

      If anybody but "Big Game" James Shields starts the first game it would be shocking.

      Shields was acquired in a Dec. 9, 2012, trade with Tampa Bay for moments like this. He has been the Royals' Opening Day starter the past two years. He started the wild-card game against Oakland. He was the winning pitcher in Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Los Angeles Angels and started the American League Championship Series opener against Baltimore.

      Shields threw his only complete-game shutout this season against the Giants on Aug. 9. He limited San Francisco to three singles and a double, while striking out five and walking one. Of the 111 pitches he threw, 73 were strikes.

      --Yost went to Dublin (Calif.) High and Chabot Junior College in Hayward, Calif., before the New York Mets drafted him in 1974.

      "I grew up in the Bay Area. I grew up a Giants' fan, so it's going to be special," Yost said. "I've got the utmost respect for [Giants manager] Bruce Bochy.

      "The San Francisco Giants are a team a lot like us. They are a team that scraps ball games out. They've got great pitching. Their bullpen is dynamic. Their defense is very solid. It's going to be a fun series."

      --The middle three games of the series will be played at AT&T Park under National League rules, which means the Royals will lose designated hitter Billy Butler with the pitchers hitting.

      "The difference now is every series we've played up to the point has been an American League series," Yost said. "Now this is going to be a four-game American League series and a three-game National League series. We're looking at all of our options (for the roster).

      "It's a totally different game. You pinch hit a lot more. You need a little more versatility. You'll have the ability to double switch, which will help. You've got to have pinch hitters lined up. If you pinch hit three times over the course of a game, that could happen easily. If you're pinch hitting four times, you're in extra innings."

      Yost managed the Milwaukee Brewers from 2003-08, so he is familiar with the National league approach.

      "It's a fun style," he said. "I've never really managed two styles in one series. It's a different type. There are a lot more things that are involved. The double switch comes into play. Pinch hitting comes into play. When do you pinch hit this guy? When do you pinch hit that guy? There's a lot more strategy-wise in a National League game.

      "You can't try to get (starters) deeper into the game because sometimes situations just don't allow it, depending on the score. You may come into the fifth or sixth inning with runners on second and third. Even though your starter is throwing great, you've got to take the opportunity to score there.

      "It's a lot easier in the American League because you don't have to worry about that. ... In the National League, score dictates, innings dictate, base runners dictate. A lot more goes into it in a National League game."

      --The Royals had a brief workout lasting about an hour on Friday.

      Afterward left-hander Danny Duffy threw a two-inning simulated game, and relievers Louis Coleman and Aaron Crow, who were not on previous playoff rosters, each threw one inning. The World Series rosters have yet to be set.

  • Friday, October 17, 2014
    Banister gets three-year deal to manage Rangers
    By The Sports Xchange

    New Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister signed a three-year contract with a club option for a fourth year on Friday.

    • No financial terms of the deal were released by the team, which announced his hiring on Thursday as the franchise's 18th full-time manager in history.

      Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said he started with 40 candidates and pared the list to three finalists, including interim manager Tim Bogar, before settling on Banister.

      "What stood out is his presence," Daniels said of Banister. "He is an impressive guy to meet. You can understand how he can command a room. The passion for winning and getting to know people as a person before the player stood out the most."

      The 50-year-old Banister inherits a Rangers team that finished last in a loaded American League West this year and abruptly lost popular manager Ron Washington, who resigned due to personal reasons late in the season.

      However, the next Texas manager has faced much greater challenges in his life than turning around a baseball team.

      Banister, who was the Pittsburgh Pirates' bench coach the past four seasons, successfully battled bone cancer during his high school days in Houston. He was also temporarily paralyzed from the waist down for a few weeks. He was playing catcher and suffered a broken neck when he was involved in a home plate collision.

      He overcame all that to play professionally as a catcher in the Pirates' organization.

      Despite being a 25th-round draft pick in 1986 from the University of Houston, Banister carved out a seven-year professional career because of his work ethic and baseball smarts. He had only one at-bat in the major leagues but finished with a 1.000 batting average -- hitting a single off Atlanta's Dan Petry in a 1991 game.

      The Pirates were so impressed with Banister that they kept him in the organization after his playing days ended. He spent more than two decades as a coach at both the major league and minor league levels as well as being a manager in the farm system and the organization's minor league field coordinator.

      Banister was also so well-regarded by the Pirates that he was one two finalists when current manager Clint Hurdle was hired after the 2010 season.

      Many in the organization said privately that the only reason Banister did not get the job is because it would have been a tough sell to the fans to hire an internal candidate when the Pirates were coming off 18 straight losing seasons at the time.

      In many ways, Banister is the perfect manager to blend the new-age and old-school ways of baseball.

      He has a strong background in player development and respects the role scouting plays in an organization. Yet he also understands the importance of statistical analysis and has watched first hand as sabermetrics have helped the Pirates go from the laughingstock of pro sports to back-to-back postseason appearances.

      "I want to thank the Texas Rangers for giving me this opportunity," Banister said. "I am elated to have the chance to make an impact on the organization and I look forward to getting started on that task.

      "I also want to express my gratitude to the Pittsburgh Pirates for the last 29 years. My experiences in that organization have prepared me well for this new opportunity and I thank all of the individuals who have poured into my life along the way."

      Banister is a prototypical tough Texan who can be stern when needed, but is extremely caring and will quickly build trust with both his players and others in the organization.

      "If a team asked me for a recommendation on Banny, I'd give a whole-hearted one," Hurdle said in September.

      Daniels knows Hurdle well. Hurdle served as their bench coach in 2010, his season between managing jobs with the Colorado Rockies and Rangers.

      Daniels apparently listened to what Hurdle had to say. He chose Banister over Bogar and Indians bullpen coach Kevin Cash.

      "When you interview for any position, unfortunately you're only going to hire one guy," Daniels said. "And by definition you're going to disappoint others involved. It's not a situation of Tim or anybody else, quote unquote losing. It's really a situation where Jeff won the job and felt like he was the best fit."

  • Friday, October 17, 2014
    Mattingly gets approval from new Dodgers president
    By The Sports Xchange

    Don Mattingly will manage the Dodgers next season -- "definitely."

    • Los Angeles' new president of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman, addressed a number of issues at his introductory news conference on Friday at Dodger Stadium. Mattingly's future topped the list.

      “We’re very aligned on a lot of things philosophically and have thoroughly enjoyed those conversations,” he said. “We’re going to get together next week and I’ll look forward to building that relationship.”

      Friedman said he already has had two conversations with the Dodgers skipper.

      There had been reports that Friedman might try to bring longtime friend Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon to Southern California to replace Mattingly. Friedman quickly quashed that rumor.

      "I have a tremendous personal relationship with Joe. He’s a friend of mine. We have a really good professional relationship as well," Friedman told the Los Angeles Times. "That being said, Joe is now working with [Rays President] Matt Silverman and baseball operations people there. I'm excited about working with Donnie.

      "I'm going into it with the mind-set that we're going to work together for a long time. ... I'm looking forward to working with Donnie for a long time."

      Friedman, a 37-year-old former Wall Street analyst, does plan to hire a general manager. CBSSports.com says the most likely GM candidate is former Arizona and San Diego GM Josh Byrnes.

  • Friday, October 17, 2014
    Matheny won't second-guess using Wacha
    By The Sports Xchange

    SAN FRANCISCO -- St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny knew he would be roasted if his decision to use right-hander Michael Wacha with the season on the line Thursday night backfired on him.

    • He did anyway. And he was.

      Matheny was left to defend his decision.

      "We like Michael's stuff there," he said shortly after Wacha gave up a season-ending, three-run home run to the Giants left fielder Travis Ishikawa that gave San Francisco a clinching 6-3 win in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. "We put him in a tough place. That's on me."

      Asked a second, third and even fourth time why he used a regular-season starter who hadn't pitched since Sept. 26 in a situation like that when he had so many other options, Matheny understandably got defensive.

      "I liked him out there. I never don't like having him on the mound," he said. "We liked his stuff. We saw the (speed) gun light up and were excited.

      "Michael is a great pitcher. I can't wait to see him pitch next season when he's fully healthy. He has a great career ahead of him."

      Wacha started 19 games for the Cardinals during the season and posted a 5-6 record with a 3.20 ERA. He spent two months on the disabled list because of a stress reaction in his right shoulder before returning in early September. Wacha didn't last longer than five innings in any of his four September starts, going 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA during the month.

  • Friday, October 17, 2014
    NLCS MVP Bumgarner shares glory with teammates
    By The Sports Xchange

    SAN FRANCISCO -- Madison Bumgarner proudly accepted the Most Valuable Player trophy for the National League Championship Series on Thursday after the San Francisco Giants' 6-3, World Series-clinching win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

    • Truth be told, he wasn't quite sure he earned it.

      Bumgarner pitched the Giants to a 3-0 win in St. Louis to start the series, but he stood to lose Game 5 on Thursday until pinch hitter Michael Morse tied the game in the bottom of the eighth with a home run.

      "We had so many guys play a big part in every game," Bumgarner said. "I'm thankful and blessed to have the opportunity for this. I don't know that I'm 100 percent deserving of it. There's plenty of guys that deserve it, too."

      San Francisco's ace left-hander finished the series with a 1-0 record and 1.72 ERA. He struck out 12 and walked three.

      Those are nice numbers, but so are these:

      --Left fielder Travis Ishikawa ended the series with a three-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 5. Ishikawa hit .385 in the series and had a team-leading seven RBIs.

      --Third baseman Pablo Sandoval reached base at least once in all five games, extending his club-record streak to 23 consecutive postseason games. He batted .400, led off the winning rally Thursday with a single, and he smacked three doubles, giving him a franchise-record-tying 16 extra-base hits in his postseason career.

      --Left-handed reliever Jeremy Affeldt pitched in four of the five games, allowing one hit in 4 2/3 scoreless innings. He was the winning pitcher in Game 5, coming on with the bases loaded and two outs in a 3-3 game in the top of the ninth inning. He induced pinch hitter Oscar Taveras to ground back to the mound, ending the threat and setting up the Giants' series-ending uprising in the bottom of the inning.

  • Friday, October 17, 2014
    Ishikawa blasts Giants into World Series
    By The Sports Xchange

    SAN FRANCISCO -- Thanks to their left fielders, the San Francisco Giants are headed back to the World Series.

    • Injured Michael Morse hit a pinch-hit, game-tying home run in the eighth inning, and his replacement, Travis Ishikawa, blasted a walk-off, three-run shot in the bottom of the ninth Thursday night, sending the Giants to their third World Series in five years with a 6-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

      By virtue of their five-game win in the National League Championship Series, the Giants will move on to face the American League champion Kansas City Royals in the World Series. Game 1 is scheduled for Tuesday night in Kansas City.

      "Just a gutty effort through all this, and I couldn't be prouder of these guys," champagne-drenched Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "They just don't stop fighting."

      Giants general manager Brian Sabean said of his team, "They believed since day one. They are like a bunch of cockroaches. You gotta kill 'em all off. If you're going to get one, you gotta get 'em all."

      Morse, limited to pinch-hit duties in the series because of a strained left oblique, drew the Giants even at 3-3. In the ninth, his teammates immediately jumped on the Cardinals' third pitcher, right-hander Michael Wacha.

      Third baseman Pablo Sandoval greeted Wacha with a single. One out later, pinch runner Joaquin Arias advanced into scoring position when first baseman Brandon Belt drew a walk.

      Wacha, pitching for the first time in the postseason, fell behind the left-handed-hitting Ishikawa 2-0 before the Giants left fielder, acquired off waivers in April, turned on a fastball and lined it over the 25-foot-high wall in right field at AT&T Park for the game-winner.

      The homer was Ishikawa's first of the postseason and the first ever to end an NLCS.

      "I was looking fastball. I was just trying to be aggressive," said Ishikawa, a backup first baseman who started just four games in left field during the regular season.

      "When I first hit it, I thought it was going to be a walk-off hit, so I was throwing my hands up in the air. I remember hearing the crowd just going crazy. So my thought was: If this gets out, it's going to be fantastic."

      Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, who had watched miscues in the field and a lack of clutch hitting put his team in a 3-1 series hole, was left to explain his decision to use a regular-season starter who hadn't pitched since Sept. 26 with the season on the line.

      "We like Michael's stuff there," he said. "We put him in a tough place. That's on me."

      Left-hander Jeremy Affeldt, the third Giants pitcher, got the win after coming on to get pinch hitter Oscar Taveras to ground out with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the ninth, preserving a 3-3 tie.

      Affeldt's escape job completed a three-game Giants sweep in San Francisco, a stretch during which the San Francisco bullpen went unscored upon in 10 1/3 innings.

      "We had so many guys play a big part in every game," said NLCS Most Valuable Player Madison Bumgarner, the Giants' starting pitcher Thursday. "I'm thankful and blessed to have the opportunity for this. I don't know that I'm 100 percent deserving of it. There's plenty of guys that deserve it, too."

      Behind the strong pitching of starter Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals held a 3-2 lead through seven innings. However, the St. Louis ace was replaced by fellow All-Star Pat Neshek to start the eighth, and three pitches later, the game was tied.

      Morse provided the game-tying blow, belting a home run just inside the left field foul pole. The pinch-hit homer was the first in Giants postseason history.

      The Giants, who hadn't hit a home run in the first four games of the series, smacked three in the series clincher.

      "If there's one guy in that bullpen I didn't want to face this whole series, it was him," Morse said of the side-arming Neshek. "I just went up there and tried not to do too much. I wasn't trying to hit a home run, that's for sure."

      Neither starting pitcher got a decision.

      Reverting back to his 20-win form of the regular season after two shoddy starts in the playoffs, Wainwright limited the Giants to two runs on four hits in seven innings. He struck out seven and walked two.

      After giving up a two-run homer to Giants second baseman Joe Panik in the third, Wainwright allowed only one more hit, retiring the last 10 men he faced.

      The decision to go to Neshek at that point was a no-brainer, according to Matheny.

      "He was done," Matheny said of Wainwright. "He's worked very hard. He did a nice job. That's an understatement. He was terrific."

      Bumgarner was almost as good. He pitched eight innings, allowing three runs on five hits and two walks. He struck out five.

      Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams and catcher Tony Cruz belted fourth-inning home runs off Bumgarner, who briefly was given a one-run lead on Panik's homer.

      Sandoval and center fielder Gregor Blanco had two hits apiece for the Giants, who out-hit the Cardinals 7-6.

      Outfielder Jon Jay had two hits for St. Louis, which played the final three games without star catcher Yadier Molina, who sustained an oblique injury in Game 2.

      "We're not going to drop any excuses," Matheny said. "We'd have loved to have him in the series, but we didn't."

      NOTES: While Travis Ishikawa's blast was the first NLCS-ending homer, two World Series, three American League Championship Series, two NL Division Series and one AL Division Series ended with walk-off home runs. The New York Giants also famously won the 1951 NL pennant on Bobby Thomson's homer that ended a three-game tiebreaker series against the Brooklyn Dodgers that wasn't considered part of the postseason. ... The Giants were swept in a three-game series at Kansas City from Aug. 8-10 in the only regular-season meetings between the two World Series combatants. ... The Giants franchise will be making its 20th trip to the World Series, tops among National League teams. ... San Francisco's Game 5 starter, LHP Madison Bumgarner, earned National League Championship Series Most Valuable Player honors after going 1-0 with a 1.72 ERA in 15 2/3 innings. He struck out 12 and walked three. ... St. Louis is 13-27 on the road in its NLCS history. ... The Cardinals finished the postseason with 15 home runs in their nine playoff games. The homers accounted for 21 of their 34 runs.

  • Thursday, October 16, 2014
    Free agent decisions could shape Orioles' offseason
    By The Sports Xchange

    The stunningly quick end to the Baltimore Orioles' season does not take away from the team's impressive performance in 2014.

    • The Orioles shocked the baseball world by running away from the American League East and sweeping the Detroit Tigers in the AL Division Series before getting swept by the Kansas City Royals in the AL Championship Series.

      Manager Buck Showalter's team stunned everyone by succeeding despite missing three All-Stars -- catcher Matt Wieters (elbow surgery), third baseman Manny Machado (knee surgery) and first baseman Chris Davis (suspension).

      Now, the big question are how good the Orioles can be next year when everyone is back and what will that team look like.

      Designated hitter Nelson Cruz, right fielder Nick Markakis and left-hander Andrew Miller all are free agent this winter. The Orioles could make a play to bring back all of them.

      "It's about players and talent," Showalter said after the ALCS. "It's about players and doing the right thing consistently over a long period of time. The things that we overcame on paper, we didn't look at it like that. There's so many roads to cross to get here."

      There's no question that the Orioles built the foundation for a very good run. They possess hitting, power, pitching and defense. All of that showed up this year. But what also showed in the playoffs was Baltimore's lack of speed and ability to manufacture runs against tough pitching.

      The Orioles are going to have to decide whether they are happy with a power-laden lineup that can't move runners or if they should tweak the batting order to make it a bit more flexible. Teams that wait the three-run homer can struggle when the big blasts vanish, as evidenced by what happened against the Royals in the ALCS.

      "We (did) good things; they (did) better things than us," Cruz said. "They played better than us."

      The Orioles also need to think about their rotation. Right-hander Chris Tillman is slowly developing into an elite pitcher, but he struggled in the playoffs. The team still doesn't really have a top-notch, slump-stopping No. 1 starter. That hurt the Orioles a bit in the playoffs.

      Right-hander Kevin Gausman could grow into that. He started well for part of the season and was solid in long relief in the playoffs. He has the talent to possibly be a No. 1 -- as does right-handed prospect Dylan Bundy, who is getting closer to the big leagues.

      The Miller decision will affect the bullpen. If the Orioles get him back, he could be a setup man or even be the closer with left-hander Zach Britton shifting to a setup role. Britton had an outstanding season despite stumbling a bit in the playoffs, but bringing back Miller would give the Orioles options. However, retaining him might be too hard to do for financial reasons, as he will command big money on the open market.

      The Orioles must deal with a painful ending to a spectacular season, but they are turning their focus to 2015.

      "There's so many things that have to happen for you to get a chance at this," Showalter said, "so we'll start all over again."

  • Thursday, October 16, 2014
    Rays add RHP Kohn
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Tampa Bay Rays signed reliever Michael Kohn to a one-year contract, the team announced Thursday night.

    • Financial terms of the deal were not available.

      The right-hander pitched in 25 games for the Angels this season and had a 2-1 record with 20 walks and 26 strikeouts and a 3.04 ERA in 23 2/3 innings.

      The 28-year-old Kohn, who was on the Angels' opening-day roster, became a free agent earlier this month when he was outrighted from the Angels' 40-man roster.

      After undergoing Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery and missing the 2012 season, Kohn returned in 2013 to pitch in 63 games and post a 1-4 record with a 3.74 ERA.

  • Thursday, October 16, 2014
    Banister selected as new Rangers skipper
    By The Sports Xchange

    Jeff Banister was named manager of the Texas Rangers on Thursday.

    • "What stood out is his presence," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "He is an impressive guy to meet. You can understand how he can command a room. The passion for winning and getting to know people as a person before the player stood out the most."

      Banister inherits a Rangers team that finished last in a loaded American League West this year and abruptly lost popular manager Ron Washington, who resigned due to personal reasons late in the season.

      However, the next Texas manager has faced much greater challenges in his life than turning around a baseball team.

      Banister, who was the Pittsburgh Pirates' bench coach the past four seasons, successfully battled bone cancer during his high school days in Houston. He was also temporarily paralyzed from the waist down for a few weeks. He was playing catcher and suffered a broken neck when he was involved in a home plate collision.

      He overcame all that to play professionally as a catcher in the Pirates' organization.

      Despite being a 25th-round draft pick in 1986 from the University of Houston, Banister carved out a seven-year professional career because of his work ethic and baseball smarts. He had only one at-bat in the major leagues but finished with a 1.000 batting average -- hitting a single off Atlanta's Dan Petry in a 1991 game.

      The Pirates were so impressed with Banister that they kept him in the organization after his playing days ended. He spent more than two decades as a coach at both the major league and minor league levels as well as being a manager in the farm system and the organization's minor league field coordinator.

      Banister was also so well-regarded by the Pirates that he was one two finalists when current manager Clint Hurdle was hired after the 2010 season.

      Many in the organization said privately that the only reason Banister did not get the job is because it would have been a tough sell to the fans to hire an internal candidate when the Pirates were coming off 18 straight losing seasons at the time.

      In many ways, Banister is the perfect manager to blend the new-age and old-school ways of baseball.

      He has a strong background in player development and respects the role scouting plays in an organization. Yet he also understands the importance of statistical analysis and has watched first hand as sabermetrics have helped the Pirates go from the laughingstock of pro sports to back-to-back postseason appearances.

      "I want to thank the Texas Rangers for giving me this opportunity," Banister said. "I am elated to have the chance to make an impact on the organization and I look forward to getting started on that task.

      "I also want to express my gratitude to the Pittsburgh Pirates for the last 29 years. My experiences in that organization have prepared me well for this new opportunity and I thank all of the individuals who have poured into my life along the way."

      Banister is a prototypical tough Texan who can be stern when needed, but is extremely caring and will quickly build trust with both his players and others in the organization.

      "If a team asked me for a recommendation on Banny, I'd give a whole-hearted one," Hurdle said in September.

      Daniels knows Hurdle well. Hurdle served as their bench coach in 2010, his season between managing jobs with the Colorado Rockies and Rangers.

      Daniels apparently listened to what Hurdle had to say. He chose Banister over Rangers interim manager Tim Bogar and Indians bullpen coach Kevin Cash.

      "When you go through life experiences like that, it provides unbelievable perspective," Daniels said. "It's huge in leadership positions. What he has experienced is pretty remarkable."

  • Thursday, October 16, 2014
    NLCS notebook: Morse could be World Series DH
    By The Sports Xchange

    SAN FRANCISCO -- The Kansas City Royals are scouting the National League Championship Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants.

    • Even so, the Giants figure to have a secret weapon available to them should they meet the American League champion Royals next week in the World Series.

      The Giants used their regular starting left fielder, Michael Morse, only as a pinch hitter in the first four games of the NLCS. He was sent to the plate once apiece in Games 2, 3 and 4, going 1-for-3.

      Morse strained a left oblique muscle Sept. 1 and played only once the rest of the regular season. He was not even included on the Giants' 25-man roster for the NL wild-card game against the Pittsburgh Pirates and NL Division Series against the Washington Nationals.

      However, with the World Series set to begin Tuesday in Kansas City, the Giants would have a designated hitter available to them in Games 1 and 2. A well-rested and now pain-free Morse would be the ideal candidate.

      The slugger batted .279 in the regular season. Despite missing 31 games, he led the Giants in doubles (32), and he finished third in home runs (16) and fifth in RBIs (61).

      --Why is the World Series starting in Kansas City? Some would say it is because Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, the club's Game 5 starter, grooved a fastball to New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.

      Jeter led off his final All-Star Game with a double off Wainwright, the National League starter. It triggered a three-run first inning in the American League's eventual 5-3 win.

      By rule, the representative of the league that wins the All-Star Game earns the home-field advantage in the World Series.

      --Cardinals manager Mike Matheny didn't have to think much about his pregame speech Thursday with his club facing elimination in the NLCS.

      He didn't address the team.

      "For me to call together a club like this and tell them they need to play harder would be a huge insult," he said before Thursday's game. "For me to jump up there and try and be Knute Rockne today would be ... It would work, I think, completely opposite of what we would intend for it to be."

      --For the third game in a row, Matheny's starting lineup did not include injured catcher Yadier Molina.

      However, the six-time All-Star made a pitch to play despite a painful left oblique.

      "We're trying everything that we can medically, and it isn't working yet," Matheny said. "I know the longer we play, the more he's going to be in my office, and that's a great thing."

  • Thursday, October 16, 2014
    MLB roundup: Royals will have Series home advantage
    By The Sports Xchange

    The World Series will begin Tuesday with Game 1 at approximately 8 p.m. ET in Kansas City when the Royals face either the San Francisco Giants or the St. Louis Cardinals.

    • Major League Baseball announced starting times and the schedule for the Fall Classic on Thursday. Each game is set to begin at 8:07 p.m. ET

      Game 2 will be played Wednesday in Kansas City, followed by Games 3, 4 and 5, if necessary, Friday through Sunday in the National League Championship Series winner's home stadium. The Giants entered Thursday night's Game 5 in the NLCS with a 3-1 lead.

      If the World Series is extended to a Game 6 or 7, it would shift back to Kansas City on Oct. 28, and Oct. 29.

      The Royals, who are in the World Series for the first time since 1985, open at home by virtue of the American League's victory in this season's All-Star game.

      -- Jeff Banister will be named manager of the Texas Rangers, a source confirmed to The Sports Xchange on Thursday.

      Banister inherits a Rangers' team that finished last in a loaded American League West this year and abruptly lost popular manager Ron Washington, who resigned due to personal reasons late in the season.

      However, the next Texas manager has faced much greater challenges in his life than turning around a baseball team.

      Banister, who was the Pittsburgh Pirates' bench coach the past four seasons, successfully battled bone cancer during his high school days in Houston. He was also temporarily paralyzed from the waist down for a few weeks. He was playing catcher and suffered a broken neck when he was involved in a home plate collision.

      --The Pittsburgh Pirates plan to extend the $15.3 million qualifying offer to free-agent catcher Russell Martin, according to CBSSports.com.

      Martin was instrumental in helping the Pirates reach the postseason for a second consecutive season.

      He hit .290 with 11 home runs and 67 RBIs as well as a .402 on-base percentage, one of the highest in the majors.

      --Pete Rose believes that his time is coming, he just doesn't know if he'll be alive to see his bust in the Hall of Fame.

      Major League Baseball's all-time hits leader (4,256) will appear on "CBS Sunday Morning" on Sunday. Rose, who has been banned from baseball for 25 years, opened up and says he does believe that one day he will be enshrined in Cooperstown.

      "I don't know if I'm going to live to see it," Rose tells CBS' Lee Cowan. "Someone, at some period of time, will feel it in their heart to give me a second chance. I might be six feet under, but that’s what you have to live with."

      --Cuban second baseman Jose Fernandez has defected, according to multiple reports.

      The 26-year-old Fernandez is expected to seek a big league contract and has been called a legitimate prospect ready for the majors today.

      According to a Baseball America scouting report, Fernandez is one the three best Cuban ballplayers who are currently unavailable to MLB teams. He bats from the left side and has superior contact skills -- he struck out only 10 times in 214 at-bats last year.

  • Thursday, October 16, 2014
    Reports: Cuban second baseman defects
    By The Sports Xchange

    Cuban second baseman Jose Fernandez has defected, according to multiple reports.

    • The 26-year-old Fernandez is expected to seek a big league contract and has been called a legitimate prospect ready for the majors today.

      According to a Baseball America scouting report, Fernandez is one the three best Cuban ballplayers who are currently unavailable to MLB teams. He bats from the left side and has superior contact skills -- he struck out only 10 times in 214 at-bats last year.

  • Thursday, October 16, 2014
    World Series starts Tuesday night
    By The Sports Xchange

    The World Series will begin Tuesday with Game 1 at approximately 8 p.m. ET in Kansas City when the Royals face either the San Francisco Giants or the St. Louis Cardinals.

    • Major League Baseball announced starting times and schedule for the Fall Classic on Thursday. Each game is set to begin at 8:07 p.m. ET

      Game 2 will be played Wednesday in Kansas City, followed by Games 3, 4 and 5, if necessary, Friday through Sunday in the National League Championship Series winner's home stadium. The Giants entered Thursday night's Game 5 in the NLCS with a 3-1 lead.

      If the World Series is extended to a Game 6 or 7, it would shift back to Kansas City on Tuesday, Oct. 28, and Wednesday, Oct. 29.

      The Royals, who are in the World Series for the first time since 1985, open at home by virtue of the American League's victory in this season's All-Star game.

  • Thursday, October 16, 2014
    Rose: One day I'll be in Hall of Fame
    By The Sports Xchange

    Pete Rose believes that his time is coming, he just doesn't know if he'll be alive to see his bust in the Hall of Fame.

    • Major League Baseball's all-time hits leader (4,256) will appear on "CBS Sunday Morning" on Sunday. Rose, who has been banned from baseball for 25 years, opened up and says he does believe that one day he will be enshrined in Cooperstown.

      "I don't know if I'm going to live to see it," Rose tells CBS' Lee Cowan. "Someone, at some period of time, will feel it in their heart to give me a second chance. I might be six feet under, but that’s what you have to live with."

      Three years after he retired as a player, Rose was accused of gambling on games he played in and managed for the Cincinnati Reds. He agreed to his permanent ban amid those allegations.

      Rose is asked why he risked his legacy on betting on baseball.

      "That's a good question," Rose said. "I can't answer it. I wish I had an answer. I usually got an answer for everything. I just simply ... the best way to say it is, I screwed up."

  • Thursday, October 16, 2014
    Pirates to make offer to keep C Martin
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Pittsburgh Pirates plan to extend the $15.3 million qualifying offer to free-agent catcher Russell Martin, according to CBSSports.com.

    • Martin was instrumental in helping the Pirates reach the postseason for a second consecutive season.

      He hit .290 with 11 home runs and 67 RBIs as well as a .402 on-base percentage, one of the highest in the majors.

      Martin also received kudos for his work behind the plate and how he handled the pitching staff.

      Pirate general manager Neal Huntington knows how valuable Martin is to the team.

      "We'd love nothing more than to have Russell Martin in a Pirates uniform for years to come," he said. "And if it were unilateral, he would be. It's not. And if we don't have enough, then we'll do the very best to find the next Russ Martin."

      Martin just completed the two-year, $17-million deal he signed after spending a miserable season with the New York Yankees where he batted .211.

      If Martin does bolt Pittsburgh, it's expected that his old team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, would be one of the first teams to come calling.]

  • Thursday, October 16, 2014
    Report: Rangers hire Banister as manager
    By The Sports Xchange

    The new manager for the Texas Rangers will be Pittsburgh Pirates bench coach Jeff Banister.

    • The Dallas Morning News reported that Banister, who lives near Houston, will be named manager sometime Thursday afternoon. He replaces Ron Washington.

      The 49-year-old Banister has been Pirates manager Clint Hurdle's bench coach for the past four years. He has spent his entire baseball career with the Pirates organization.

      He had one major league at-bat -- he singled. While in high school, Banister overcame cancer in his leg. While in junior college, an injury paralyzed him for 10 days.

      Banister beat out interim Rangers manager Tim Bogar for the job along with Cleveland bullpen coach Kevin Cash. Banister and Cash had second interviews with Rangers officials on Wednesday.

      Bogar's future with the team is uncertain. He went 14-8 as interim manager after Washington resigned.