On May 16 [url= http://www.officialbluejackets.com/authentic-adidas-oliver-bjorkstrand-jersey]Authentic Oliver Bjorkstrand Jersey[/url] , St. Louis Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter stood in the batter’s box at Target Field in Minneapolis. The career .275 hitter was batting an embarrassing .140, and St. Louis fans were calling for his benching.
What a difference six weeks make.
Going into Wednesday night’s series finale with the Cleveland Indians at Busch Stadium, Carpenter is now hitting .259. Since the middle of May, Carpenter has collected 53 hits and batted .349. His 16 doubles and 12 homers in that span rank second in the majors, and no hitter can equal his 1.115 OPS over that period, not even Mike Trout.
In Tuesday night’s 11-2 blowout of Cleveland, Carpenter did something no other Cardinal has ever done. He went 5-for-5 with five runs scored and belted a pair of solo homers. That’s a roll call not even Stan Musial or Albert Pujols can answer.
Included in that outburst was a leadoff homer off Indians ace Corey Kluber, a blast that cut a 2-0 deficit in half and restored energy in a dugout that could have gotten down after a quick deficit following a 90-minute rain delay.
“He’s one of the best in the game,” Carpenter said of Kluber. “That’s just an outstanding job by our team. We took a lot of good at-bats. I’m starting to put things together. We play a long [url= http://www.officialbluejackets.com/authentic-adidas-ryan-murray-jersey]Ryan Murray Jersey[/url] , long, long season. I knew I could physically do it.”
A five-run second inning turned flames into an inferno, burning Kluber in the shortest start of his career. It also put the Cardinals (42-36) in position to sweep the American League Central leaders and gave them four straight wins after a stretch of eight losses in 10 games.
St. Louis will send Jack Flaherty (3-2, 2.50 ERA) to the mound in search of a sweep on Wednesday. Flaherty is coming off the best start of his young career, tying his career high with 13 strikeouts Friday night in Milwaukee. He took a no-hitter one out into the seventh inning before Jesus Aguilar golfed a breaking ball over the left-center-field wall.
But Flaherty had to settle for a no-decision that night in his team’s eventual 2-1 loss, although the performance may have made him a candidate for National League Rookie of the Year.
“He prepares beyond his years,” Cardinals pitching coach Mike Maddux told mlb.com. “If you saw him, you would think he’s been around the block.”
Flaherty has never faced Cleveland.
Flaherty’s resume does read like a grizzled veteran compared to Indians right-hander Shane Bieber (2-0, 2.45) [url= http://www.ravensfootballauthentics.com/justin-tucker-jersey-authentic]Youth Justin Tucker Jersey[/url] , who will make his fourth big league start. Bieber blanked Detroit over seven innings Friday night in a 10-0 victory, allowing just four hits and walking one while fanning nine.
“I was saying before the game that I was excited to watch him pitch, and that’s why,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said to mlb.com. “He pounded the zone with three different pitches. He changed speeds. That was fun to watch.”
Nothing about this series has been fun for the Indians, who in two games have managed just 10 hits, none for extra bases. That’s been a dramatic contrast after outscoring opponents by 54 runs during a seven-game winning streak.
The Tennessee Titans believe the potential reward from quarterback Marcus Mariota working with his third head coach in his fourth NFL season outweighs the risk of change.
Or sticking with the same coach.
So now the Titans are looking for a new coach to replace Mike Mularkey and build off the franchise’s first playoff win in 14 years to make them a true NFL contender.
”There’s nothing more that I want for our fans than to bring a championship here,” general manager Jon Robinson said Monday afternoon . ”I feel like it’s my charge to put the team in the best position to do that.”
The Titans fired Mike Mularkey on Monday, less than 48 hours after a 35-14 loss to New England in the AFC divisional round. Mularkey revived a team with the NFL’s worst record over two seasons and led them to their first playoff victory in 14 years only to become the first coach let go after winning a playoff game since San Francisco fired Steve Mariucci after the 2002 season.
Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk turned to Mularkey in November 2015 when she fired Ken Whisenhunt after 23 games . Mularkey went 2-7 down the stretch as the Titans finished 3-13 to land the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2016. That capped a 5-27 record over 2014 and 2015 that was the NFL’s worst.
Mularkey led the Titans to back-to-back 9-7 records – their first consecutive winning records since 2007-08. He finished with a 21-22 record after a season in which the Titans cost themselves the AFC South title with a three-game skid in December and needed to beat the Jaguars, now in the AFC championship game [url= http://www.ravensfootballauthentics.com/justin-tucker-jersey-authentic]Womens Justin Tucker Jersey[/url] , to reach the postseason for the first time since 2008.
His devotion to an offense he’s known since being offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh between 2001 and 2003 may have cost him. He said Sunday he was prepared to move ”full speed” ahead after talking with Strunk. He defended offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie’s play-calling, saying he was happy with Mariota’s development.
Mularkey also said he didn’t anticipate any changes on his coaching staff a week after Strunk issued a statement on his job security . But talk of an extension since a 22-21 comeback win against Kansas City in the wild-card round ended Monday morning when Robinson and president and chief executive officer Steve Underwood told Mularkey he was being let go.
Strunk called it ”unfortunate” that they couldn’t find common ground on how to improve.
”I also view this as an important moment for our football team as we try to make that next step to sustained success on the field,” Strunk said in a statement.
Now Robinson will oversee his first coaching search with the Titans the seventh NFL team to change coaches since the start of the season. He was hired two days before Mularkey had the interim title removed in January 2016.
”This boils down to doing what we think is best for the football team moving forward, taking the next step,” Robinson said.
Robinson said interviews with candidates could be held as early as this week, though the Titans will confirm a candidate only after an interview is completed. The general manager declined to discuss Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, saying he couldn’t comment on coaches under contract.
”This is a very attractive job for a lot of candidates,” Robinson said. ”I look forward to working with whoever the next head coach is. I think that they will see that myself and Amy will be unified with them in our vision for the football team.”
In Mularkey’s first full season, the Titans led the NFL scoring touchdowns inside the red zone [url= http://www.ravensfootballauthentics.com/joe-flacco-jersey-authentic]Youth Joe Flacco Jersey[/url] , and they led the AFC while ranking third in rushing offense. Mariota also threw 26 touchdowns with only nine interceptions.
This season, the Titans failed to take advantage of an AFC South in which Andrew Luck did not play for Indianapolis and two-time defending division champ Houston lost rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson to an injury early.
Mariota also had his worst season yet with a career-worst 15 interceptions and 13 touchdowns. The run game, the basis of Mularkey’s offense, slumped to 15th in the NFL.
Robinson said the key is finding the right coach to get the best out of the Titans’ roster, and the general manager isn’t worried about Mariota working with yet another head coach.
”Marcus is a pretty resilient guy,” Robinson said. ”He’s a very mentally tough guy. He takes a lot from the standpoint of ownership in things. I have zero concern in Marcus being able to adapt and learn, and do what’s best to get the offense going.
AP Pro Football Writer Josh Dubow contributed to this report.