Cubs

Major milestone falls in New York

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Major milestone falls in New York

From Comcast SportsNet Tuesday, September 20, 2011
NEW YORK (AP) -- Now that save No. 602 is behind him, Mariano Rivera is happy to step back out of the spotlight and work on another big number: six. Despite five World Series championships in 17 seasons with the New York Yankees, Rivera has never come to enjoy individual attention. "You know me, I'm not like that," Rivera said. "I like to be under the radar, do my job." There was no chance of that Monday afternoon, when the smallest crowd in the three-year history of Yankee Stadium nearly drowned out Metallica's "Enter Sandman" as Rivera came in for the ninth inning. They hollered with every pitch -- and there weren't many of them. Rivera retired the Twins' Trevor Plouffe, Michael Cuddyer and Chris Parmelee to end the Yankees' 6-4 win over Minnesota and break Trevor Hoffman's mark. Rivera even broke a bat for good measure -- sawing off Parmelee and sending the rookie back to the dugout for another piece of wood. Parmelee lasted only one more pitch. Plate umpire John Hirschbeck rung him up, and catcher Russell Martin came out to the mound, gently placed the ball in Rivera's glove, then gave him a big hug. Rivera stayed and accepted congratulations -- Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and finally Derek Jeter came over before the bullpen and bench got there. The Twins watched from their dugout. Rivera tried to walk off the field with the rest of the Yankees, but longtime teammate Jorge Posada pushed him, laughing, onto the mound, where fans cheered him once again. Never comfortable in the spotlight, Rivera didn't know quite what to do. He proved equal to the moment yet again. Rivera smiled, blew a kiss to the crowd, and then doffed his cap as cheers washed over him. "For the first time in my career, I'm on the mound alone," Rivera said. "It was priceless. I didn't know it could be like that." It was the second big moment at home for the Yankees and their fans. In July, Jeter got his 3,000th hit in the Bronx. Rivera's may have been the more remarkable achievement, considering the slender right-hander throws mostly one pitch. Opposing hitters have seen it for years, but still haven't figured it out. "It's amazing," Cuddyer said. "You've got a 99 percent chance of knowing what's coming, and he still is able to go out there and dominate." He nearly did it outside the country. The 41-year-old Rivera tied Hoffman with save No. 601 on Saturday in Toronto. The AL East leaders lost Sunday, putting Rivera in line to get the milestone in the Yankees' last homestand of the season. And who would've thought it, at least back in 1995 when Rivera started out. He began his career as a starter, lasting only 3 1-3 innings and losing 10-0 to the Angels in his debut, before becoming a star in the bullpen. Rivera's 602 saves have come in 674 chances. Hoffman got his 601 in 677 tries. Paid attendance was 40,045, less than the capacity crowd and attendant hullabaloo surrounding Jeter's historic hit. STATS LLC said Monday's makeup game drew the fewest fans since the new Yankee Stadium opened. The Twins lost their ninth straight, tying a run in May as their worst of the season. The Yankees have been struggling, too -- this was just their fifth win in 12 games. Rivera has finished their last three victories, though. He earned his 600th save in Seattle on Sept. 13. Now that the milestone is behind him, Rivera can focus on getting ready for his 16th October in 17 seasons -- the time of year his reputation was made. Those 602 saves don't count any of the 42 he locked down in the playoffs -- in only 47 chances. The Yankees lead Boston by 5 games in the AL East with 10 to play. A.J. Burnett didn't make it past the fifth inning, but Cory Wade (6-1), Boone Logan, Rafael Soriano and David Robertson kept the Twins at bay until Rivera came on in the ninth, and Curtis Granderson hit his 41st homer of the year. Granderson's homer off Scott Diamond (1-5) came in the first after Jeter reached on an infield single, and Robinson Cano hit an RBI triple in the third followed by Nick Swisher's single to make it 5-0. Rodriguez hit a two-out RBI single in the sixth -- right around the time Rivera was realizing he could be called on in the ninth. As he has been since he got his first save on May 17, 1996, Mo was ready in the ninth. Eventually, he will no longer be the Yankees' closer. Rivera said he doesn't know yet when he'll call it a career, saying "it's a decision that we have to make as a family." "I don't know if I can pitch three more years, you guys. It's hard out there. I don't have any hair anymore." Just five pitchers who were primarily relievers are in the Hall of Fame: Hoyt Wilhelm (1985), Rollie Fingers (1992), Dennis Eckersley (2004), Bruce Sutter (2006) and Goose Gossage (2008). Rivera, who turns 42 in November, is set to be the sixth once he does retire. "Baseball will remain without me," Rivera said. "There will be other good guys closing games -- and I will be watching."

'The Javy Baez Show' hits the All-Star Game, with El Mago taking his place among baseball's best

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USA TODAY

'The Javy Baez Show' hits the All-Star Game, with El Mago taking his place among baseball's best

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Asked not long ago how special Javy Baez is, Joe Maddon brought up another name: Jon Lester.

To paraphrase the Cubs’ skipper: When a player with the experience of Lester is raving about Baez, you know he’s something special.

It doesn’t take a lot to realize that Baez can do things on a baseball field that few others can. The man nicknamed “El Mago” is pulling a new rabbit out of his hat each and every game, it seems, leaving even those the closest to him consistently wowed.

And, yeah, Lester thinks pretty highly of his Cubs and National League All-Star teammate, saying Monday that Baez is the best infielder he’s played with during his big league career, now in its 13th season.

“I think he is, probably, the best infielder I’ve ever played with. That speaks pretty highly,” Lester said the day prior to the Midsummer Classic in D.C. “I’ve played with some pretty good ones: (Dustin) Pedroia, Mike Lowell, (Adrian) Beltre at third. These guys are pretty special defenders and players, and I think Javy’s athleticism makes him above and beyond those guys.

“How athletic he is, how he’s able to control his body. There’s times in the game where you feel like it’s almost going backwards for him it’s so slow. And the stuff he’s able to do at the plate, defensively, you guys all see that. He’s a special player to watch. I’m just glad he’s on our side and we get to do it every day.”

Baez’s breakout campaign has him in the MVP discussion at the season’s midway point. And he’s one of the stars of these All-Star festivities, a participant in Monday’s Home Run Derby and the NL leadoff hitter in Tuesday’s All-Star Game. While Cubs fans and observers have watched it all season long — Cubs teammate and fellow Derby participant Kyle Schwarber dubbed it “The Javy Baez Show” on Monday — these two days will put Baez on the national stage, one of the game’s biggest.

“I’ve seen him do some amazing things the past few years,” Reds second baseman and NL All Star Scooter Gennett said. “He couldn’t do anything that I’d be surprised (by). That’s just Javy doing some — what do they call him, ‘The Magician’ or whatever? — just doing some magic stuff. Nothing would surprise me. I’ve seen enough to be like, ‘Man, he’s extremely blessed and a really good baseball player.’”

“Javy is an electrifying player to say the least,” Houston Astros pitcher and American League All Star Gerrit Cole said. “Probably the most impressive thing outside of Javy’s glove work, which is just kind of magical in its own … I got to see him when he first came up and he knows how that first stint went in the major leagues and how he’s adjusted since he’s been there. And that’s probably the most important thing. He’s very flashy, he’s very flairy, which is great, is exciting, is attention grabbing. But his skill work and his talent is really what shines through, and he’s just a wonderful player and tough out.”

Though he paused, seemingly to take in the fact that Lester had such high praise for him, Baez himself said comparisons don’t mean much. It’s not a surprise from someone who has established himself as a unique talent not just in the current generation of ballplayers but perhaps throughout the game’s history.

“There’s a lot of comparisons with me. I just try to be myself, to be honest, out there, off the field, too,” Baez said. “There’s a lot of people who are scared to be them. I play the way I play because I do me. I do it the way I think. … I’m not trying to show anybody up. That’s the way I play, just me being me and trying to do the best for my teammates.”

The numbers and the highlight-reel plays have thrust Baez into the realm of baseball’s very best. His inclusion in the All-Star Game isn’t a surprise, it’s a necessity.

Baez said he’s hoping to learn a lot from this experience, and Lester, at his fifth All-Star Game, said the lesson should be a simple but important one.

“The biggest thing is — when I got my first All-Star Game, it makes you feel like you belong. It’s like, ‘I am pretty good,’” Lester said. “So I think to get rewarded for your hard work, to get to be able to do this, I think it’s kind of like the little pat on the back. Like, ‘Hey, good job.’ For me, it was like, ‘Maybe I am pretty good.’ It was like the big, eye-opening thing for me the first time I got to do this.

“Hopefully they (Baez and Cubs catcher Willson Contreras) see that, hopefully they feel like they are two of the best in the game and that just carries over to their game.”

On this day in 2000, Mark Buehrle made his White Sox debut

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AP

On this day in 2000, Mark Buehrle made his White Sox debut

On this day 18 years ago, former White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle made is MLB debut.

NBC Sports Chicago’s stats guru Chris Kamka tweeted out Buehrle’s debut.

Buehrle was just 21 years old when he got called up to the big leagues, and spent 12 seasons with the Sox. He also had stints with the Marlins and Blue Jays.

Buehrle was never an overpowering pitcher with his fastball in the high 80’s. He was also known for working quickly on the mound to keep hitters off balance.

That paid big dividends for the Sox hurler, as he’s known for tossing a no-hitter against the Rangers in 2007 and MLB’s 18th perfect game against the Rays in 2009, with both of those games coming at then U.S Cellular Field.

A big highlight from the perfect game, a lot will never forget is former Sox outfielder Dwyane Wise saving Buehrle’s perfect game with a ridiculous juggling catch in center field. Ever since then, “The Catch” has been engraved on the outfield wall in left center.

Besides the no-hitter and perfect game, Buehrle knew how to field his position. Eight years ago against the Indians on Opening Day, Buehrle kicked a ground ball off his foot into foul territory and to record the out, he flipped the ball between his legs to first basemen Paul Konerko who barehanded it and got the out.

Let’s just say that play was at the top for that season.

But, as for eating up innings, Buehrle did not shy away from showing his durability.

After his rookie season, Buehrle threw over 200 innings in 14 consecutive seasons. In his tenure with the Blue Jays, he was just an inning and a third away from becoming the fifth pitcher in MLB history to record over 200 innings pitched in 15 straight seasons.

In his 16 years in the MLB, Buehrle finished with 214 wins and 160 losses, with a 3.81 ERA in 518 games and 493 starts over 3,000 innings. He won the 2005 World Series with the Sox and he also won the Cy young that year.

Buehrle appeared in five All-Star games, and he won four gold gloves, along with two pitcher of the month awards.

2005 was a good year to say the least for Buehrle. He finished the year at 16-8 with a 3.12 ERA which arguably could’ve been his best season in a Sox uniform.

His number 56 was retired by the Sox last season, becoming the 12th player in Sox history to have their jersey retired.

What a career it was for number 56.