national league wild card

MLB postseason preview: National League Wild Card game — Cubs at Pirates

With the MLB postseason about to begin, we’re previewing the wild card games that get the playoffs underway. We previewed the American League Wild Card game last night, now it’s time to do the same with the National League game. The NL Wild Card features familiar foes, the NL Central rival Chicago Cubs (97-65) and Pittsburgh Pirates (98-64) at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. SP Jake Arrieta (22-6, 1.77 ERA) gets the start for the Cubs while SP Gerrit Cole (19-8, 2.60 ERA) gets the nod for the Pirates.

With the impressive numbers Arrieta and Cole put up this season, you can expect a pitcher’s duel in this one, and offense will likely be at a premium for the teams with the second- and third-best records in the majors this season.

Arrieta had one of the best pitching performances in recent memory, winning 22 games with an ERA well under 2.00. He also struck out 236 batters in 229 innings, making him a leading candidate for the NL Cy Young Award. His numbers since the all-star break are particularly impressive. In 15 starts, he went 12-1, with a 0.75 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 107.1 innings. He also threw two complete game shutouts in the second half, including a no-hitter against the Dodgers on August 30.

Cole had a good season himself, though it looks fairly pedestrian compared to the numbers Arrieta put up. Cole.had 202 strikeouts in 208 innings, going 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA. Unlike Arrieta, Cole regressed a bit in the second half, particularly in September and October, when his ERA was 3.29, the highest of any month this season. At home this season, Cole went 9-3 with a 2.83 ERA.

The Cubs definitely have the advantage at starting pitcher, but the Pirates likely have the edge if the game ends up in the hands of the bullpen. Pittsburgh closer Mark Melancon had 51 saves this season, with a 2.23 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 76.2 innings. The Cubs had several pitchers act as closer during the season, eventually settling on Hector Rondon, who saved 30 games with a 1.67 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 70 innings.

Offensively, the Pirates had a significantly better team batting average than the Cubs (.260 vs .244), but the Cubs have a definite advantage in the power department, hitting the fifth-most home runs in the National League, with 171 — 31 more than the Pirates’ 140. The Cubs, however, strike out a lot — 1,518 times to be exact, the most in the majors this season. As I discussed with the Astros yesterday, if the Cubs hit a dry spell, a good pitcher can get them out. If guys like 3B Kris Bryant and 1B Anthony Rizzo are on their game, though, I think they’ll hit in the game.

When a game is expected to be a pitcher’s duel, like this one is, I think you have to lean toward the team with the better starting pitcher. In this case, that is by far Arrieta. I think he has another strong start in him and will be able to hold down the Pirates offense so I believe the Cubs will win the game and head into the NLDS as they attempt to play in their first World Series since 1945.

The winning team moves on to play the NL Central champion Cardinals in an NLDS on Friday; the NL West champion Dodgers play the NL East champion Mets in the other NLDS, which also begins Friday.


MLB postseason preview: American League Wild Card game — Astros at Yankees

The 2015 MLB regular season is over and the postseason is about to begin. The first game of the postseason is the American League Wild Card game, taking place Tuesday at Yankee Stadium between the Houston Astros I86-76) and the New York Yankees (87-75), who finished in second place in the AL West and AL East, respectively. Twenty-game winner Dallas Keuchel (20-8, 2.48 ERA) is scheduled to start the game for the Astros, on three-days rest, while Masahiro Tanaka (12-7, 3.51 ERA) is set to take the mound for the home team.

The Astros are at a disadvantage on the road, where they were 33-47 this year, compared to 53-28 at home, but they do have one of the leading AL Cy Young candidates pitching for them in Keuchel. Although he is going to have to pitch in the game on short rest, Keuchel pitched well against the Yankees this season, throwing 16 shutout innings in the two contests and giving up 9 hits while striking out 21 and walking just 1. If those numbers are any indication, the Yankee hitters have yet to figure out how to hit against him.

Tanaka will look to pitch the Yankees into the ALDS against a lineup that finished the year with the second-most home runs in the majors (230) but also struck out more times (1392) than any team but the Cubs. When he went against the Astros in Houston on June 27, he gave up 7 hits and 6 earned runs in 5 innings of work. He struck out 5 and walked 2 in the no-decision. The 6 earned runs he allowed was the most he has given up in any of his 44 starts in his major league career.

If you give much credence to the pitchers’ performances against the opponents during the regular season, Keuchel would clearly get the advantage, but there is a question about how he will handle pitching on short rest for the first time this season.

Looking at the offense, the Astros are one of the biggest all-or-nothing offenses in the league, as evidenced by the home run and strikeout numbers referenced above. When they’re going strong, they can launch home run after home run, but when they’re in a cold spell, they’re susceptible to being shut out. Overall, though, their team average was roughly even with the Yankees’ at .250 for the Astros and .251 for the Yankees. The Yankees’ offense slowed down in the second half of the season, as you might expect from a team that has a lot of older hitters, like Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran; after the all-star break, the Yankees hit .248 and the Astros batted .263. The Yankees’ drop-off is even more noticeable when you look at the numbers for September and October. Last month, the Astros’ average was .272 (fourth in MLB) and the Yankees’ was just .233 (28th in MLB). In the few games played this month, the Astros led the majors with a .347 average in the small sample size, and the Yankees ranked 16th at .233.

I may be biased as an Astros fan, but I think they have the advantage in the Wild Card game. Looking at Keuchel’s numbers against New York and the way the Yankees’ team average has trailed off of late, I don’t think they’ll be able to win the game. Home-field advantage doesn’t mean as much in baseball as it does in other sports so I don’t think that will benefit the Yankees much. In the end, I just think the Astros are the better team right now going into the playoffs and they have one of the American League’s best pitchers leading them into the game.

The winning team moves on to play the AL Central champion Kansas City Royals in an ALDS on Thursday; the AL West champion Rangers play the AL East champion Blue Jays in the other ALDS, which also begins Thursday.

nfl logo

My NFL Picks: Week 4, including the Giants at Bills

Time for Week 4 of the NFL season, which includes the first London game — a 9:30am ET start between the Jets and Dolphins. I went 9-7 against the spread last week, bringing my total record up to 22-26 so far in my picks. I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick is in red

Thursday Night Football
Ravens at Steelers (+2.5)

Sunday 9:30AM game
Jets at Dolphins (+2.5)

Sunday 1PM games
Texans at Falcons (-6.5)
Giants at Bills (-5.5)
Raiders at Bears (+2.5)
Chiefs at Bengals (-3.5)
Jaguars at Colts (-9.5)
Eagles at Redskins (+3.5)
Panthers at Buccaneers (+3.5)

Sunday 4PM games
Browns at Chargers (-7.5)
Vikings at Broncos (-6.5)
Packers at 49ers (+9.5)
Rams at Cardinals (-6.5)

Sunday Night Football
Cowboys at Saints (-4.5)

Monday Night Football
Lions at Seahawks (-9.5)

nexus 5x 6p

Google officially announces Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P — what you need to know

Over the last couple of days, we’ve brought you most of the specs for the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P, but Google filled in the blanks at the company’s official unveiling of the devices today.

nexus 5x pic

The specs for the Nexus 5X, the smaller and more affordable of the two devices, are as follows:
Processor: Snapdragon 808 hexa-core CPU with Adreno 418 GPU
Display: 5.2-inch 1080p LCD, Gorilla Glass 3
Storage: 16GB or 32GB
Battery: 2,700mAh
Camera: rear 12.3MP with f/2.0 aperture and laser autofocus, front 5MP with f/2.2 aperture
Operating system: Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Measurements: 147×72.6×7.9mm, 136g
Other: USB Type-C with quick charge, nanoSIM slot, 3.5mm hadphone jack
Cellular connectivity:
GSM/EDGE: 850/900/1800/1900MHz
UMTS/WCDMA: B1/2/4/5/8
CDMA: BC0/1/10
LTE (FDD): B1/2/3/4/5/7/12/13/17/20/25/26/29
LTE (TDD): B41
LTE CA DL: B2-B2, B2-B4, B2-B5, B2-B12, B2-B13, B2-B17, B2-B29, B4-B4, B4-B5, B4-B7, B4-B12, B4-B13, B4-B17, B4-B29, B41-B41

It is available to pre-order now in carbon, quartz or ice color options, for $379 for the 16GB version and $429 for the 32GB version.

nexus 6p

The specs for the Nexus 6P are below:
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 v2.1, 2.0 GHz Octa-core 64-bit, Adreno 430 GPU
Display: 5.7-inch WQHD AMOLED (2560×1440, 518ppi)
Storage: 32GB, 64GB or 128GB
Battery: 3,450 mAh battery
Camera: 12.3MP rear camera (1.55 μM, f/2.0), IR Laser assisted autofocus, 4K (30 fps) video capture, Broad-spectrum CRI-90 dual flash; 8MP front camera
Operating system: Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Dimensions: 159.3 X 77.8 X 7.3 mm, 178 g
Other: Type-C, Fingerprint sensor, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Barometer, Proximity sensor, Ambient light sensor, Hall sensor, Android Sensor Hub
Colors: Aluminium, Graphite, Frost
Cellular connectivity:
GSM/EDGE: 850/900/1800/1900MHz
UMTS/WCDMA: B1/2/4/5/8
CDMA: BC0/1/10
LTE (FDD): B1/2/3/4/5/7/12/13/17/20/25/26/29
LTE (TDD): B41
LTE CA DL: B2-B2, B2-B4, B2-B5, B2-B12, B2-B13, B2-B17, B2-B29, B4-B4, B4-B5, B4-B7, B4-B12, B4-B13, B4-B17, B4-B29, B41-B41

The Nexus 6P is available for pre-order for $499 for 32GB, $549 for 64GB or $649 for 128GB.

Both devices work on Google’s Project Fi network. Complete information for the 5X can be found here and the 6P here.

nexus 5x

Everything you need to know about Google’s Nexus 5X before it’s announced

After specs for the Nexus 6P leaked over the weekend, now we have specs for that phone’s smaller counterpart, the Nexus 5X, which is expected to be officially announced by Google tomorrow alongside the 6P.

The LG Nexus 5X, the follow-up to 2013’s Nexus 5, has a 5.2-inch FHD LCD screen protected by Gorilla Glass 3. It is powered by the Snapdragon 808 processor and comes equipped with 2GB RAM. Its rear camera clocks in at 12.3MP, with a 5MP shooter on the front of the device. It comes with a 2,700mAh non-removable battery. Like the 6P, the 5X has a fingerprint sensor and a Micro USB Type-C charging port and launches with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, the latest version of the operating system.

The Nexus 5X is available in 16GB or 32GB storage options (with no microSD card slot) and color options that include quartz white, ice blue and charcoal black.

According to FCC documents, the 5X is equipped with cellular bands to work on all the major U.S. carriers.

Separate reports from Android Police note that the Nexus 5X will be available to pre-order in the U.S. U.K., Korea, Japan and Ireland following Google’s event on Tuesday. Pricing in the U.S. begins at $379.99 for the 16GB model. AP also notes that the device (and the 6P) will be sold online only and not available in carrier stores.

nexus 5x specs

nexus 6p specs

Everything you need to know about Google’s Nexus 6P before it’s announced

Google is holding an event on Tuesday, where the company is expected to announce the second-generation Chromecast and two phones, the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P. Almost all of the details about that latter handset are now known, thanks to leaked presentation slides that have popped up online.

The Nexus 6P, the follow-up to last year’s Nexus 6, marks a couple of firsts for the Nexus line. In addition to being the first Nexus device manufactured by Huawei, it is the first to have an all-metal body. The 5.7-inch AMOLED screen is protected by Gorilla Glass 4. The phone will launch with Android 6.0 Marshmallow aboard, offering users the latest version of the popular operating system. The 6P is powered by the Snapdragon 810 v2.1 processor with 3GB RAM, and comes equipped with a non-removable 3,450mAh battery, along with a USB-C charging port for faster charging. Dual front speakers allow for better sound quality.

The rear camera is 12.3MP, and the front-facing camera comes in at 8MP. Google says the camera sensors take better pictures in low-light situations, which is one of the reasons Google says it is the best all-around camera ever used in a Nexus device. The Nexus 6P also includes a fingerprint sensor on the back of the device, which Google calls one of the quickest in the industry.

On the software front, notable features added to 6.0 include Now on Tap, which offers better answers and results when you search for information, and new settings that allow for a longer-lasting battery as the phone won’t use as much of the battery when in standby mode. The latest version of Android also allows users to share with data is used with individual apps.

The Nexus 6P comes in three color options: aluminum, graphite and frost (with gold available only in Japan, at least initially). Storage options include 32GB, 64GB and 128GB and, as with other Nexus devices, there is no microSD card slot. No information about pricing or a release date was included with the slides, though that will likely be announced on Tuesday, and we’ll bring you that information once it’s known.

Key specs:
Display: 5.7-inch WQHD AMOLED (2560×1440, 518ppi)
Operating system: Android 6.0 (Marshmallow)
Processor: Snapdragon 810 processor v2.1
Cameras: 12.3MP rear camera (1.55 μM, f/2.0)
8MP front camera
Battery: 3,450mAh
Storage: 32/64/128GB
Dimensions: 159.4 x 77.8 x 7.3mm, 178g
Other features: USB Type-C, Fast charging, Dual front speakers, All-metal body, Fingerprint sensor
Colors: Aluminium, Graphite, Frost (Gold available in Japan)


My NFL Picks: Week 3, including the Chiefs at Packers

Time for Week 3 of the NFL season. I’m not off to a good start with my picks after two weeks, going 6-10 against the spread last week, for a cumulative record of 13-19 so far. I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick is in red (even though I lost my pick last week, I’ll continue doing it).

Sunday 1PM games
Falcons at Cowboys (+0.5)
Bengals at Ravens (-2.5)
Raiders at Browns (-3.5)
Colts at Titans (+3.5)
Steelers at Rams (+1.5)
Chargers at Vikings (-2.5)
Jaguars at Patriots (-13.5)
Saints at Panthers (-6.5)
Eagles at Jets (-2.5)
Buccaneers at Texans (-6.5)

Sunday 4PM games
49ers at Cardinals (-6.5)
Bills at Dolphins (-2.5)
Bears at Seahawks (-14.5)

Sunday Night Football
Broncos at Lions (+4.5)

Monday Night Football
Chiefs at Packers (-7.5)