LEAD OFF

There are three undefeated teams left in the Majors. The Reds defeated the Astros 8-2 to improve to 4-0 while the Rangers continued to roll with a 3-2 win over Seattle to move to a  5-0 mark. They join the 4-0 Orioles, who enjoyed an off day Tuesday. All three are in action on Wednesday. On the other side of the spectrum, there are three winless teams remaining: one that isn’t a shock (Astros) and two that are a surprise (Red Sox and Rays).

NOTABLE DEBUTS

Michael Pineda, Mariners: L, 6.0 IP, 5H, 3R, 3ER, 1BB, 4K (Not a bad start at all against the red-hot Rangers offense on the road).

QUESTION:

The 4-0 Reds are off to their best start since what year?

INSIDE THE BOXSCORE

Nelson Cruz‘s bid to become the only player in MLB history to homer in his first five games came up short Tuesday with an 0-for-2 performance with one walk. His four home runs in the Rangers first four games was a feat matched only by Willie Mays and Mark McGwire.

QUICK HITS

– The Mets will need more performances like this one if they hope to compete this year. Mets starter Chris Young did it all on Tuesday in his debut with his new team as he not only shut down the Phillies through 5.1 innings with one run allowed for a victory, but he helped his own cause with three hits and one RBI. Two of his three hits came in the third inning as the Mets exploded for a six-run inning. Giants starter Madison Bumgarner was the last pitcher to record two hits in an inning last September.

– The Red Sox lineup Tuesday including their starting pitcher will earn $87.4 million this year. While their opponent Indians starting lineup and pitcher will make just over $23 million. And the Red Sox are 0-4. Good thing it’s a long season.

ANSWER:

The Reds haven’t been on a start like this since 1990 when they started the season 9-0 and would eventually go on to sweep the A’s in the World Series. On the flip side, the Reds dropped the Astros to 0-4. It’s the worst start for the Astros since…2010.

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LEAD OFF

Break up the Baltimore Orioles! With a 5-1 victory over the Tigers Monday, the O’s improved to 4-0—their best start since 1997, which was the last time the Orioles made the postseason. Is it really possible? Is it Buck Showalter? I have no clue, but they sure on a hot ride dating back to last August.

Here are some of the numbers on the O’s 4-0 start…

  • O’s have allowed only four runs in four games.
  • They are outscoring opponents (Rays, Tigers) 17-4.
  • They have yet to trail a game this season.
  • Orioles starters have allowed two runs in 26 innings, a 0.69 ERA.
  • Since Showalter took over as Orioles manager on August 3 of last year, the O’s have the best record in the AL East at 38-23 in the 61 game stretch.

NOTABLE DEBUTS (from Sunday)

Zach Britton, Orioles: W, 6.0 IP, 3H, 1R, 1ER, 3BB, 6K

Michael Crotta, Pirates: 1.0 IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 1K

INSIDE THE BOXSCORE

Nelson Cruz made history last night as he homered in his fourth straight game to start the season in the Rangers 6-4 win over Seattle. He became just the third player in history to accomplish the feat. Willie Mays was the first to do it in 1971 and scroll down to find out who the second slugger was.

QUESTION:

In 1998, this player became the second to homer in his team’s first four games of the season. Can you name him?

QUICK HIT

With every good start, there’s a bad start to the season as well. For a bad start, see the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brew Crew are 0-4 after being swept by the Reds that started with a blown three-run lead on Opening Day in Cincinnati. Today, they fell apart late again on two solo home runs by the Braves Martin Prado and Dan Uggla. Uggla’s home run hit the top of the wall and bounced over for the game-winning run. The Brewers responded by becoming frustrating and blaming it on bad luck instead of their lackluster play on the field:

“What do you want me to say? We had a ball hit the top of the wall and bounce away from us.” — Casey McGehee

ANSWER:

Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire belted a home run in his first four games to start the ’98 season. That season should stick out in fans memory as the year McGwire and Sammy Sosa went on a home run chase after Roger Maris single-season record of 61 home runs. McGwire would ultimately beat out Sosa and break the record with 70 homers.

World Series Game 5: Giants 3, Rangers 1  (Giants win WS 4-games-1)
Thanks to another stellar pitching performance by ace Tim Lincecum, the San Francisco Giants defeated the Texas Rangers 3-1 to win the series 4-games-to-1 for their first championship since arriving in the Bay Area. The Giants ace defeated Rangers ace Cliff Lee for the second time in the series and left no doubts about how much pitching dominated these playoffs.

It’s only fitting that in a year dubbed the “Year of the Pitcher” that the playoffs and, more importantly, the world series would be dominated by pitching.

In a game that was more of what people expected from the Game 1 Lee-Lincecum matchup, Lincecum fired 8.0 innings with just one run allowed on three hits while fanning 10. Lee matched Lincecum until the seventh inning when Edgar Renteria, who is developing a flair for the dramatic, ripped a three-run homer off Lee to give the Giants all the runs they would need to win it all. Cody Ross and Juan Uribe led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Aubrey Huff laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners over, and Lee then struck out Pat Burrell for two outs bringing Renteria to the plate. Renteria had the walk-off game-winning hit for the Marlins in the ’97 World Series and made the final out of the 2004 World Series for the Cardinals. This time he delivered again with a three-run blast into the Texas night to deep center field. It was all the Giants needed.

Nelson Cruz hit a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh, his sixth of the postseason, but that was all the Rangers would get off of Lincecum. Closer Brian Wilson came in for the ninth and shut down the Rangers middle of the order, striking out Josh Hamilton, getting Vlad to ground out and clinching the World Series for the Giants by striking out Cruz to end it.

Renteria was named series MVP thanks to a .412/.444/.765 slash line with two home runs, including the series-winning home run. You can definitely make a strong argument that Lincecum deserved the MVP award, but it really doesn’t matter because the Giants are champs and that’s all that matters to them and their fans.

ALCS Game 6: Rangers 6, Yankees 1 (Rangers win series 4-games-2)
Forget about wondering if the Yankees could actually beat Cliff Lee in Game 7 because they won’t get the chance after they couldn’t handle Colby Lewis. Lewis fired a gem to lead the Rangers to a 6-1 victory to earn a World Series ticket for the first time in franchise history.

The Rangers not only eliminated the Yankees, but eliminated the past troubles and playoff losses to New York with a 6-1 clinching game in front of their home fans. Lewis baffled Yankees hitters all night, allowing just three hits, one run in 8.0 innings of work with eight strikeouts. Not only was it Lewis’ second win of the series, but it may have been his best performance of his life.

Texas broke a 1-1 game wide open with a four-spot in the bottom of the fifth inning. Vladimir Guerrero ripped a two-RBI double to break the tie and Nelson Cruz followed it up with a two-run homer to provide Texas with a “we’ve made it moment” with the hysterical crowd at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Yankees starter Phil Hughes was hit around for the second time in the series, allowing four runs, four hits, four walks in an ineffective 4.2 innings.

Ian Kinsler added an RBI-sac fly later in the game to make it 6-1, but the rest was about Lewis performance against a lineup that produced 859 runs in the regular season. Closer Neftali Feliz came in for the ninth and struck out two in the inning, including a strikeout looking of Alex Rodriguez to end the game. It was fitting that the former Ranger would make the final out, but how in the world does A-Rod take that 0-2 pitch from Feliz? Terrible.

Texas will await the winner of the NLCS as it prepares for the first World Series appearance in team history.

Game 4: Rays 5, Rangers 2
Well it looks like this series will live up to the hype as the Rays won their second straight game on the road 5-2 to tie the series at two games apiece, forcing a decisive game 5 back at Tropicana Field. The Rays stormed out to a 5-0 lead off Texas starter Tommy Hunter behind RBI doubles by Carlos Pena and BJ Upton and then a two-run blast off the bat of Evan Longoria, his first of the postseason. Wade Davis limited the Rangers to two runs through 5.0 innings of work to pick up the win while the Rays bullpen tossed a nearly-perfect four innings to close out the game. Nelson Cruz provided the only offense for Texas with a solo home run, his third homer of the series. The road team has won all four games in this series so far with the Rangers leaving home 0-2 in front of fans that have yet to see a postseason series victory. David Price and Cliff Lee will meet again in Tampa Bay on Tuesday for the winner-take-all game.

Game 3: Giants 3, Braves 2
Poor Brooks Conrad. The Braves second baseman made three costly errors in Game 3 at Turner Field, the last one being the difference as the Giants rallied to defeat the Braves 3-2 to take a two-games-to-one series lead. With the Giants leading 1-0 on another brilliant pitching performance, this time by Jonathan Sanchez, Eric Hinske hit a clutch, pinch-hit two-run homer in the eighth inning off reliever Sergio Romo to give the Braves a 2-1 lead. The Giants were not done yet though as Aubrey Huff singled in the tying run with one out in the ninth, but Buster Posey reached on a fielding error by Conrad, his third of the game and fourth of the series, to allow the winning run to score. Brian Wilson mowed down the Braves in the bottom of the inning to hand the Giants the tight victory. Conrad’s fielding error in the second inning allowed the Giants first run to score as well. The Giants and Braves will face off in Atlanta for Game 4 Monday with a chance for the Giants to close out the series on the road.

Game 3: Phillies 2, Reds 0 (Phillies win series 3-games-to-0)
If you somehow didn’t think this series was already over after Halladay’s no-hitter in Game 1 and the Reds collapse in Game 2, Cole Hamels ended it quickly Sunday night as he fired a complete game shutout to give the Phillies a three-game sweep of Cincinnati. Hamels allowed just five hits through 9.0 innings of work with nine strikeouts and no walks. The Phillies opened the scoring with a run off a Reds error, go figure, and Chase Utley hit his first home run of the postseason to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead. That was all Hamels needed on the night as he threw 119 pitches. NL MVP candidate Joey Votto went 0-for-4 and hit just .100 in the series. Johnny Cueto suffered the loss for Cincinnati after lasting just 5.0 innings with two runs (one earned) allowed. The end result of this series shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone, the Reds inexperience showed throughout the series and no matter what they tried to do, the Phillies overall were just better at every facet of the game.

Game 3: Rays 6, Rangers 3
The Rays showed signs of life for the first time this postseason to stave off elimination for at least one game with a 6-3 victory over the Rangers. The Rangers hosted their first playoff game since 1999 and took a brief 2-1 lead on an Ian Kinsler solo home in the 7th inning, but the Rays responded in the next inning. Carlos Pena and John Jaso each had an RBI single to give the Rays a 3-2 lead and Pena added a two-run home run in the top of the ninth inning to put the game away. Carl Crawford also homered in the game for Tampa Bay. Rays starter Matt Garza went 6.0 plus innings with two runs allowed (one earned) for the no-decision and former Rangers reliever Joaquin Benoit picked up the win in relief. Nelson Cruz hit his second homer of the playoffs on a solo blast in the ninth for the Rangers final run of the game. Texas will try again to close out the series Sunday afternoon with Tommy Hunter on the mound against Wade Davis.

Game 3: Yankees 6, Twins 1  (Yankees win series 3-games-to-0)
Death, taxes and the New York Yankees beat the Minnesota Twins. The Yankees closed out their first round series at home with a 6-1 victory in Game 3 to sweep the Twinkies right out of the postseason. This one wasn’t much of a contest as the Yankees hit starter Brian Duensing early and often. With the score 2-0 in the fourth inning, Marcus Thames belted a two-run shot for the Bronx Bombers. Duensing exited after just 3.1 innings five runs allowed on seven hits. Nick Swisher also homered for New York in the Yankees 12-hit attack. Phil Hughes was stellar on the mound for the pinstripes, tossing 7.0 shutout innings allowing just four hits for the victory. Hughes struck out six. Even though it was a non-save opportunity, Mariano Rivera closed the door on Minnesota’s season with a scoreless ninth. This series marks the fourth time the Yankees knocked out the Twins in the past decade joining last season, 2004 and 2003. The Twins have lost 12 straight postseason games dating back to 2004 with the last nine games being against the Yankees. New York will play the waiting game before facing Tampa Bay or Texas in the ALCS.