News and notes from around the Central:
- The Cardinals opened the coffers on Sunday night to bring back one of their critical would-be free agents ... no, not that one. The other one: the Cards handed Chris Carpenter a two-year, $21-million contract extension, a deal that will keep the 36-year-old in St. Louis through 2013.
- The Cards weren't the only ones handing out extensions on Sunday: the Pirates announced they've extended the deal of GM Neal Huntington, who had three years (plus a club option for 2015) tacked onto his contract.
- And while we're on the topic: Reds closer CoCo Cordero has a $12 million option for 2012, and the Reds probably aren't interested in bringing him back at that salary. But CoCo says he's willing to re-negotiate that option, and GM Walt Jocketty says that the club has talked about extending Cordero's contract.
- Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija has had an impressive second half of the season, leading to speculation that the former Notre Dame wideout could get a chance to join Chicago's starting rotation in 2012. (Please, God, let this happen.)
- After losing reliever Sergio Escalona to the DL with an ankle sprain (suffered when Escalona tripped over a glove while shagging fly balls), the Astros brought in left-hander Xavier Cedeno, who'd gone home to Puerto Rico following the end of AAA Oklahoma City's season.
- Milwaukee celebrated Rickie Weeks' return to the starting lineup and avoided barfing up another game in the Central with a 3-2 white-knuckler over Philadelphia. Our recap is here.
- St. Louis swept the Braves out of town and trimmed their deficit in the Wild Card race to just 4.5 games with a 6-3 victory over Atlanta. The Cards did most of their damage in a five-run third inning against Braves ace Tim Hudson: Hudson hit Daniel Descalso and Jon Jay with errant pitches, walked in a run, and gave up a back-breaking three-run double to Yadier Molina. Molina's double ended the suspense in this one: the Braves only managed two runs against Jake Westbrook (5.1 IP, 5 hits, 4 strikeouts) and Jason Motte overpowered the Braves by striking out the side in the ninth.
- Cincinnati is teetering on the brink of elimination after dropping a 4-1 decision to the Rockies on Sunday afternoon. The Reds couldn't get anything going against Drew Pomeranz and Jason Hammel: Pomeranz gave up two hits in five innings, and Hammel closed out the final four innings, giving up the only Reds run on Joey Votto's homer in the ninth inning. Meanwhile, Edinson Volquez turned in another frustrating performance; he lasted just five innings, giving up four hits (including a Ty Wigginton homer) and walking four while giving up two earned runs.
- Pittsburgh's ugly end to the season got a little uglier on Sunday: the Bucs got swept at home by the woeful Marlins, losing 4-1 to the Fish in the finale of a three-game series. Javier Vazquez held the Pirates in check for six innings, striking out seven and giving up just three hits in six innings. James McDonald was almost as good, but he couldn't avoid a blow-up inning in the fifth: a pair of doubles (by Greg Dobbs and Donnie Murphy) and a Gaby Sanchez single plated four Marlin runs, and the only offense the Bucs could muster was Jason Jaramillo's RBI single in the seventh.
- Chicago coughed up a 4-1 lead against the Mets, as New York scored a pair of runs in the sixth and a single tally in the eighth, but the Cubs exploded for six runs in the 11th inning and held on from there, beating the Mets 10-6 on Sunday night. Carlos Pena drove in the first run in the 11th with a single, and Alfonso Soriano and Darwin Barney followed with two-RBI doubles to blow the game open. Jason Pridie made things a bit interesting in the bottom of the 11th with a two-run homer off of John Grabow (in a related story: John Grabow is pretty awful), but that was the last hit the Mets would get.
Houston got thumped by the Nationals, 8-2, as the Nats worked rookie Henry Sosa for five earned runs on seven hits in just 2.2 innings. Ian Desmond, Rick Ankiel, and Ryan Zimmerman hit back-to-back-to-back homers to open the third inning, and Washington chased Sosa from the game after Danny Espinosa and Chris Marrero doubled to increase the Nats lead to 5-1. Stephen Strasburg had another impressive showing in his return from Tommy John surgery, giving up three hits and a run while striking out four in three innings (57 pitches.).
Your updated standings for September 12:
|W||L||GB||Last 10||Streak||Elimination #
The Wild Card race looks like this right now:
And here are the playoff participants, if the season ended today:
Braves (Wild Card)
On tap for today:
- The Cardinals head to PNC Park to try to shave another half-game off their deficit in the Central. Game one of the series starts at 6:05 p.m. CDT and features St. Louis' Kyle Lohse (13-8, 3.59) and Pittsburgh's Brad Lincoln (1-2, 3.53).
- The Reds host the Cubs at 6:05 p.m. CDT, when Dontrelle Willis (0-5, 4.21) battles Rodrigo Lopez (4-6, 4.82).
- It's the Astros turn to take a paddlin' at the hands of the Phillies, as the Fightin's invade Minute Maid Park at 7:05 p.m. CDT. Brett Myers (4-13, 4.66) faces former 'Stro Roy Oswalt (7-8, 3.72) in this one.
- The Crew has the day off.