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Inside Baseball / THE BOTTOM HALF

Off The Wall

September 16, 2007|Peter Yoon

Looking back

The list of National League playoff contenders might have shrunk by one as defending World Series champion St. Louis was 0-7 on a trip that ended Thursday and had lost nine consecutive games -- its longest skid since 1980 -- before beating Chicago in the second game of a doubleheader Saturday. The 0-7 trip was the Cardinals' worst since 1972. Only a game out of first on Sept. 8, they now trail the NL Central-leading Cubs by six.

Looking ahead

Roger Clemens, who has not pitched since leaving a start Sept. 3, will take the mound for the New York Yankees tonight against the Boston Red Sox in the thick of the Yankees' bid for a postseason berth. Clemens had two cortisone shots in his pitching elbow on Sept. 5 and has also been dealing with a blister on his foot. He is 6-6 with a 4.45 ERA this season. The Yankees enter the game 5 1/2 games behind Boston in the AL East and 2 1/2 games ahead of the Detroit Tigers in the AL wild-card race.

It's a fact

The Texas Rangers are the only American League team without a complete game from a pitcher. After working five innings Saturday, their relievers had pitched a league-high 541 2/3 innings, but they also have the third-best ERA (3.55 before Saturday) and the most wins (29). "The amount of innings our bullpen has is too much," Manager Ron Washington said. "Getting 470 to 500 innings would be great."

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MINOR LEAGUE REPORT

ANGELS IN THE MINORS

HANK CONGER, C

Cedar Rapids; Class A

A first-round draft pick out of Huntington Beach High in 2006, Conger homered in his final two regular-season games to help Cedar Rapids clinch a playoff spot. He batted .290 with 11 home runs and 48 runs batted in in 84 games for the Kernels, batting .364 with five extra-base hits over his last 10 games. Stints on the disabled list in July and August limited his playing time. He has above-average arm strength, but threw out only 21 of 99 base stealers. Still, at 19 the former state high school player of the year has time to work on his mechanics, and with Jeff Mathis and Mike Napoli in front of him, the Angels aren't going to rush him.

BARRET BROWNING

Cedar Rapids; Class A

Browning, a 6-foot-1 left-handed reliever, finished his first full season as a professional with a string of 14 consecutive scoreless innings. He was 2-0 with 15 strikeouts and two saves and gave up only four walks during that stretch. For the season, he was 9-4 with eight saves and a 2.80 earned-run average. He struck out 74 batters and walked 26 in 74 innings and held opponents to a .201 batting average. He was particularly tough against left-handed hitters, holding them to a .132 batting average. A 28th-round draft pick out of Florida State in 2006, Browning, 22, was named a Midwest League postseason All-Star.

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