Daily Dose: Phillies turn to Madson as closer

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Brad Lidge was flawless last year, converting 41-of-41 save chances
with a 1.95 ERA, but blew six saves in 19 tries this season while
posting a 7.27 ERA and the Phillies placed him on the disabled list
Tuesday. Shutting Lidge down for a while may be the only way to stop
manager Charlie Manuel from using him in the ninth inning, so giving
his knee and arm some rest was the right move for the Phillies.

Ryan Madson was fantastic as Lidge’s primary setup man last season
and hasn’t missed a beat this year, posting a 2.84 ERA and 98/32 K/BB
ratio in 111 innings since the beginning of 2008. He’ll take over
ninth-inning duties and is an obvious must-own in all leagues, with
J.C. Romero stepping back into his setup role after returning last week
from a 50-game suspension.

While the Phillies hope that some time on the sidelines can cure Lidge, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* There were few surprises at the top of the draft Tuesday night, as
the Nationals selected San Diego State phenom Stephen Strasburg at No.
1 and the Mariners took North Carolina hitting machine Dustin Ackley at
No. 2. San Diego went with prep outfielder Donavan Tate at No. 3, while
Missouri ace Kyle Gibson fell all the way from consensus top-10 talent to Minnesota at No. 22 due to injury concerns.

Strasburg is capable of making an impact in the big leagues this
season, but the Nationals will have a difficult time simply signing him
by the mid-August deadline and there’ll be nothing to play for in
Washington anyway. Regardless of whether you buy into Strasburg being
the greatest college pitcher of all time or just one of the best in a
long time, if signed he should be a big fantasy asset by mid-2010.

* David Ortiz’s homer Saturday was a Fenway Park special, but his
two-run blast Tuesday off A.J. Burnett was a true bomb to deep center
field. His OPS narrowly squeaking past .600 is hardly cause for
celebration, but Ortiz has at least shown some actual signs of life
this month by going 7-for-24 (.292) with two homers and a double. With
his eyes checked and his swing looking better, maybe it’s time.

* Jesse Litsch has spent the past couple months rehabbing his elbow
injury after Dr. James Andrews twice recommended rest instead of
surgery, but those plans disappeared Tuesday when the Blue Jays
announced that he’ll undergo Tommy John surgery later this week. Litsch
had emerged as a solid mid-rotation starter, going 20-19 with a 3.83
ERA in 50 starts, but now faces 12 months of recovery.

AL Quick Hits: Jed Lowrie (wrist) is reportedly about one week
from beginning a rehab assignment … Brad Bergeson tossed eight
scoreless innings Tuesday for his third straight impressive outing …
Adam Lind homered Tuesday for the fourth time in five games and now
ranks fifth in the league with 45 RBIs … Ben Zobrist went deep Tuesday
for the 12th time in 148 at-bats and is sporting a 1.094 OPS after
coming into the year as a .222/.279/.370 hitter … Jose Arredondo was
10-2 with a 1.62 ERA last season, but is headed back to Triple-A after
posting a 5.55 ERA and pitching just three times since May 25 … Aaron
Poreda will work out of the bullpen initially after being called up
Tuesday, leaving Jose Contreras in the rotation with Bartolo Colon
(knee) going on the disabled list … Mark DeRosa hit a go-ahead grand
slam Tuesday and has 42 RBIs in 56 games despite a modest
.267/.332/.449 overall line … Cliff Lee’s streak of 10 straight Quality
Starts came to an end Tuesday with four runs in six innings.

NL Quick Hits: Jordan Zimmermann was scratched from his Tuesday
start with a sore elbow, but is slated to pitch Saturday … David Wright
homered Tuesday for the first time in over a month and is now batting
.348 … Johan Santana served up four homers Tuesday for just the second
time in his career, yet still managed his eighth victory … Jeremy
Hermida delivered a walk-off homer Tuesday versus Jason Motte … Mat
Gamel made his fourth straight start at third base Tuesday and smacked
his second career homer … J.J. Putz (elbow) underwent surgery Tuesday
and won’t be allowed to throw for at least six weeks … Carlos Gonzalez
went 2-for-4 with a steal while starting in left field Tuesday … As
expected, Chris Iannetta (hamstring) came off the disabled list Tuesday
and resumed starting for the Rockies … Pittsburgh will call up Charlie
Morton to start Wednesday against his former Braves teammates … Milton
Bradley (calf) rejoined the starting lineup Tuesday and is now
available for another injury.

Clayton Kershaw can win in the postseason! Who knew?

Clayton Kershaw
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Sometime after their Game 2 loss to the Rangers last week, the Blue Jays decided they trusted Marcus Stroman more than Cy Young candidate David Price in a potential Game 5 start. Such is the power of a postseason slump.

It can lead to one of the best hitters in the world being dropped to the eighth spot in the lineup. It can lead to quality regulars sitting at highly irregular times. In the postseason, what you did yesterday matters 10 times as much as what you did last month, usually not for the better.

Fortunately, Clayton Kershaw never had to worry about being skipped because of his postseason struggles. Even calling them struggles overstate the reality. In his previous three postseason starts, Kershaw had:

  • Allowed two runs over six innings in Game 1 of the 2014 NLDS against the Cardinals before being left in to give up a whopping six runs in the seventh
  • Pitched six scoreless innings on three days’ rest in Game 4 of the 2014 NLDS before giving up a three-run homer in the seventh
  • Allowed one run over 6 2/3 innings in Game 1 against the Mets before his two inherited runners came around to score off the pen
So, yes, Kershaw entered Tuesday’s outing against the Mets with a 4.99 postseason ERA, but he had turned in six quality starts in nine tries, allowing one earned run or fewer three times. It wasn’t nearly regular-season Kershaw, but it also wasn’t as bad as the ERA suggests, not when he’d been the victim of slow hooks and lousy bullpen support.

And, really, Tuesday’s win over the Mets didn’t seem much different at all than Kershaw previous couple of postseason starts, at least through six innings. Maybe the fastball was amped a bit. The real difference this time was that he made it through the seventh. Best of all, since he was on three days’ rest, Don Mattingly wasn’t tempted to send him back out for the eighth at 94 pitches, as he probably would have done had Kershaw been on normal rest. The bullpen took over and turned in two hitless innings in the 3-1 win, sending the NLDS back to Los Angeles for a decisive Game 5 on Thursday.

It’s completely unnecessary redemption for Kershaw, who had nothing in need of redeeming. But it’ll keep the trolls quiet for now and also all winter if Kershaw doesn’t get the chance to pitch again. He’d surely prefer to risk the chance of failure again next week in the NLCS.

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers top Mets in Game 4 of NLDS to force a Game 5

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

There will be a decisive NLDS Game 5 on Thursday evening in Los Angeles.

Clayton Kershaw yielded just three hits and struck out eight batters over seven innings of one-run ball and Justin Turner hit his fourth double of the series — a two-run poke down the left field line in the top of the third inning — as the Dodgers defeated the Mets 3-1 in Game 4 of the National League Division Series on Tuesday night at Citi Field.

Kershaw’s past postseason demons peaked their head out when Yoenis Cespedes reached on an infield single to lead off the bottom of the seventh, but there was no Matt Adams or Matt Carpenter to make him pay this time around. Kershaw retired the next three batters in order and then gave way to reliever Chris Hatcher for the eighth inning having thrown 94 pitches on short rest.

The only run Kershaw allowed was on a Daniel Murphy solo shot in the fourth inning. The other two hits he surrendered were singles.

Los Angeles’ bullpen answered the call after Kershaw’s departure, with Hatcher and closer Kenley Jansen combining to post two big zeroes on the scoreboard in Queens. Jansen secured the final four outs, earning his fifth career postseason save and second this October.

Jacob deGrom is lined up for the Mets and Zack Greinke will be on the hill for Los Angeles in the loser-goes-home tilt Thursday at Dodger Stadium. This series is shaping up to be a classic.

The winner Thursday will face the Cubs in the National League Championship Series.

Video: Justin Turner gives Dodgers early Game 4 lead with two-run double

AP Photo/Julie Jacobson
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Clayton Kershaw has looked sharp on the mound and at the plate so far in this must-win NLDS Game 4 at New York’s Citi Field.

After no-hitting the Mets in the first two frames, Kershaw smacked a one-out single to left-center field in the top of third inning. Howie Kendrick followed soon after with a two-out single to left and then Adrian Gonzalez blooped a ball to shallow center that drove in Enrique Hernandez, who had reached earlier on a fielder’s choice grounder to second base.

That all set up this Justin Turner two-run double down the left field line that put Los Angeles up 3-0

That’s now four doubles this postseason for Turner, which is a Dodgers franchise record for the Division Series. Los Angeles is trying to force a Game 5.