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Monday, August 27, 2007

Yankees' Phil Hughes Continues To Struggle

By David

Once thought of as the savior to this year's starting rotation, rookie Phil Hughes has struggled in his previous two starts giving up five runs in each outing.

On May 1st in his second-career start in the majors, Hughes had to leave after pitching 6 1/3 innings of no-hit baseball due to a debilitating left hamstring injury. The injury he sustained against the Rangers sidelined him until the beginning of August and severely hampered the Yankees chances of competing in the AL East.

Yesterday afternoon in Detroit Hughes lasted six innings and gave up four hits, three of them being home runs. To lead off the bottom half of the first Curtis Granderson ripped a line drive down the left field line that was mishandled by Hideki Matsui and allowed Granderson to score. His hit ignited the Tigers' offensive onslaught as shortstop Carlos Guillien blasted a two-run home run to right center field and slugger Marcus Thames hit his 15th home run of the season in the third inning.

The next several weeks will be critical in the development of Hughes as a big game pitcher and it will show the Yankees if he can be counted on to produce in the postseason.

Minnesota Twins Continue Hot Streak After Losing 9 out of 14

By David

On August 1st the Minnesota Twins were three games over .500, six back of the division leading Tigers and losers of six out of their last ten games.

All-Star second baseman Luis Castillo had been traded to the Mets and many prominent players on the team, including Gold Glove center fielder Torii Hunter and ace Johan Santana, were voicing their opinions about how disappointed they were with management. Players even went so far as to say that their inability to pull off any deadline deals is the major reason why the team will never make it out of the first-round.

What ensued in the following two weeks was a horrid combination of poor pitching and inept hitting. During the week of August 5th the Twins scored one or less runs five times, while surrendering 28 runs. They split a four-game set against the division leading Indians, lost two out of three against the woeful Royals and were swept at L.A.

Midway through the month Minnesota was 60-60 and seven games behind the wild card leading Mariners. They were now at a crossroads in their season as it seemed a bit to late for them to make a viable push at a playoff spot, but Rod Gardenhire's team was not ready to give up.

With a four-game sweep at Camden Yards against the struggling Orioles where they outscored Baltimore 31-10, they are now 5.5 games behind the Indians and four-games over .500.

The Twins will now start a crucial three-game series at Cleveland and if they are somehow able to leave Jacobs Field with at least two victories they will be in a good position entering September.

Landowner appeal pauses ballpark deal

Monday's ruling by independent panel will be appealed By Jess Myers / Special to MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- While plans go forward for a ceremonial groundbreaking next Thursday at the site of the Minnesota Twins' future ballpark, the current owners of the property will have to wait a few more months before learning what they'll be paid for the land.

On Wednesday, the landowners informed Hennepin County that they will appeal Monday's ruling by an independent panel that the land is worth $23.8 million. In the past, the landowners have sought more than $60 million for the parcel of land, which sits just north of Target Center in the Warehouse District of downtown Minneapolis.

At least one official from Hennepin County, which has taken the land via eminent domain and offered to pay $13.75 million for the parcel, said that the appeal was expected.

"We've played it the way we're supposed to and have followed the recommendation of the panel," said Hennepin County commissioner Linda Koblick. "The commissioners have met and done their job. We're not pleased with it, but the landowners aren't pleased with it, either. So the appeal doesn't surprise me. It's within their right."

Others with the county expressed disappointment that the landowners would not accept the panel's ruling.

"We thought this was about a fair process," said Hennepin County commissioner Peter McLaughlin. "Get the facts out and make a fair decision. There was a three-person panel who looked at it, which is what I thought [the landowners] wanted. Now they're going to appeal. It's disappointing. But we'll keep moving forward."

Aron Kahn, a spokesperson for the landowners, noted that work on the ballpark project, including the Aug. 30 groundbreaking ceremony, will not be delayed, but the landowners will exercise their right to appeal for a better price for their property.

"An appeal is part of the process," said Kahn. "When public entities take private property, the owners have the right to contest the amount, and that's what they intend to do."

The appeal will likely mean a jury trial sometime later in the year. On Monday, the independent three-person panel appointed to study the dispute and set a price for the land delivered the $23.8 million ruling, but only two of the three panelists signed the report. Larry Tucker, a licensed real estate appraiser on the panel, filed a dissenting report with the county, saying that the land was worth more than $33 million, in his opinion.

That dissenting opinion is expected to be the basis of the landowners' appeal. Koblick, who previously voted against using county sales taxes to partially fund the ballpark, said Tucker's actions were unexpected.

"Filing a minority opinion doesn't surprise me if it's a Supreme Court decision, but I think this was taken to an extreme," said Koblick, who represents several communities in western Hennepin County.

Content to concentrate their efforts on baseball and preparations for the groundbreaking, Twins officials said that they're letting the county deal with the land issues.

"We are committed to and focused on the design and construction of the ballpark, and that work is ongoing," said Kevin Smith, the Twins' vice president of public affairs. "Our county partners are working through the process regarding the land acquisition. As they do so, we prepare for the groundbreaking, which will signal that work will begin in earnest on the new facility."

The new open-air ballpark is expected to be finished in time for the 2010 baseball season, and will replace the Metrodome, which has been the home of the Twins since 1982.

Rockies Sweep Nationals To Inch Closer In Wild Card Race

By David

The season is far from over for the Colorado Rockies. Despite not winning a series since August 6th against the Brewers, the Rockies re-established themselves as a threat in the NL wild card chase with a three-game sweep over the woeful Washington Nationals.

Currently, the Rockies are lead by 26-year old left-hander Jeff Francis, 22-year old rookie phenom Troy Tulowitzki, 27-year old power slugger Brad Hawpe and 27-year old All-Star Matt Holliday. As the Rockies embark on a six-game road trip starting tonight in San Francisco, they trail the San Diego Padres by 3.5 games in the wild card race.

Behind six solid innings from veteran Elmer Dessens, 3 rbi's from Tulowitzki, 3 rbi's and a home run from slugger Matt Holliday, and 15 total hits by the teams offense. the Rockies leapfrogged the slumping Braves to pull into a third place tie with the Dodgers in the wild card chase.

''We're excited every day to come to the ballpark because we think we have a chance to win ,'' third baseman Garrett Atkins said. This is the first time in several seasons Colorado has had any hope of optimism late in the season and it will be very interesting to see if the youthful Rockies can sustain their success.

Georgia wins LLWS on walk-off homer

Peach State is home to champions for second straight year
By David Briggs / MLB.com

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Dalton Carriker remembers falling down to one knee and praying in the first-base dugout moments before his at-bat in the bottom of the eighth inning on Sunday.

"Please God," he said, "give me the strength to help my teammates."

From there, however, it's all a haze as Carriker laced an opposite-field homer over the right-field wall to ensure history would belong to Georgia and the boys from Warner Robins in a 3-2 victory over Japan in the title game of the Little League World Series.

The 12-year-old pumped his fists into the air, roared and dashed around the bases as chants of "USA! USA! USA!" pulsated from the 31,400 fans both in the stands and on the massive hill beyond the outfield at Lamade Stadium.

"My legs were about to fall off," Carriker said. "I really thought I was flying, like Peter Pan."
The first game-ending homer Carriker had ever hit just happened to be one of the biggest hits in the 61-year history of the Little League World Series.

"I almost fainted right there," Carriker said.

Said Warner Robins manager Mickey Lay, "I'm waiting to fall out of bed."

The upset victory over heavily favored Japan delivered back-to-back titles to Warner Robins' home state and proved the third time can also be a charm. The U.S. has now won three straight series titles for the first time since 1964-66 and the win gave Georgia a third championship in just the state's third World Series appearance. Columbus took last year's crown while East Marietta did so in 1983.

It's the water, it's the water," Lay said. "That's very sweet. I told [the kids] last night that even if we lost today, [you] are one of 36 players that has ever done this in the state of Georgia in 61 years."

Yet they joined their Peach State Little League brethren as victors, able to say they were the only team to run that jubilant victory lap around Lamade Stadium following the title game.

And belying the highlights of Carriker's home run that will forever live on as the tournament's defying moment, more than one player told the tale of Sunday's win.

Keaton Allen, pitching for the first time since last month's state tournament, held high-powered Japan to single runs in each of the first two innings while Kendal Scott pitched 5 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. Pitching what Lay called "the best game I've ever seen him throw," Scott gave up one hit and struck out 10.

Meanwhile, Warner Robins quickly erased an early deficit with Allen's two-out, two-run double over the center fielder's head to tie the game in the second.

"I knew once we tied it up, it was going to come down to who had the last at-bat," Lay said.

And as Lay knew, that at-bat belonged to Georgia and ultimately, Carriker.

Carriker prayed because he had gone hitless on the day and was facing Junsho Kiuchi, who had looked unhittable over his first two innings. Simply looking for a fastball, he instead saw a 2-1 curveball on the outside corner of the plate.

You know what happened next.

"I just hit a walk-off home run to win the Little League World Series," Carriker recalled thinking. "I've never a hit a walk-off homer in in my life. Why did I do it now?"
Lay leapt in joy at third base while a joyous throng of red and gold sprinted out of the dugout to home plate.

"I jumped for joy, almost had tears of joy, I was so happy for him," said Zane Conlon, who pitched the final one-third of an inning for Georgia.

The boys from Warner Robins were champions of Little League baseball.

So much for the prediction of Lubbock, Texas, manager Ed Thorne, who like so many others, never gave Georgia a chance against Japan. After falling to Georgia on Saturday, Thorne said, "Japan will win that ballgame" and said Sunday he "wouldn't be surprised if it was by a large score."

Sorry, Ed. Wrong on both counts. An underdog Georgia team ended the most improbable of summer rides on top of the Little League World.

"This is sweet," Lay said. "There's only several times in your life that people come into your life to touch you emotionally and get into your heart and never leave. And the 12 on this team have done that."

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