What we're watching: Hudson returns against Marlins

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– Fresh off a sweep of the Rockies to move into a tie for the wild card lead, the Giants will begin a three-game series in Philadelphia tonight. The opener will feature dueling left-handers in Jonathan Sanchez and Cole Hamels. Sanchez, who pitched poorly enough in the first half to be bounced from the rotation for a time, has gone 4-2 with a 3.02 ERA since his return to starting games. That stretch includes a no-hitter against the Padres and a win over the Phillies. Hamels is winless in his last five starts, though he did shut out the Pirates for eight innings last time out. He’s 7-8 with a 4.52 ERA.
– The assignment facing Minnesota’s Jeff Manship in his first major league start would seem to have just gotten a whole lot easier. Now he’ll face a demoralized White Sox team that just saw Jim Thome and his 897 OPS against right-handers given away last night. Manship, a Notre Dame product with a decent fastball and a plus curve, is getting a shot in the rotation after allowing four runs over seven innings in five relief appearances. It’s left-handed power hitters that figure to provide him with the most problems, and the White Sox no longer have any of them.
Game of the Night
Atlanta vs. Florida – One day later than originally expected, Tim Hudson will make his return from Tommy John surgery tonight against the Marlins. The 34-year-old went 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA in his four Triple-A starts, though it’s worth noting that International League hitters did bat .320 against him. The Marlins will counter with a rehabbing right-hander of their own in Anibal Sanchez. It will be his third start since returning from his latest round of shoulder woes. He beat the Braves by allowing one run and two hits over six innings in his return from the DL on Aug. 21, but he struggled last week against the Mets, giving up four runs — two earned — and eight hits in 3 2/3 innings.

Edwin Encarnacion: “I think [the Blue Jays] got too hasty in making their decision.”

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 19:  Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts in the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians during game five of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre on October 19, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
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1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion signed a three-year, $60 million contract with the Indians early last month. The 34-year-old had spent the last seven and a half seasons with the Blue Jays, but his future elsewhere appeared to be written on the wall when the Jays signed Kendrys Morales in November to essentially occupy Encarnacion’s role.

Encarnacion spoke about testing free agency for the first time in his career and the situation that led to him leaving Toronto for Cleveland. Via Jorge L. Ortiz of USA TODAY:

“Toronto was always my first option, but I had never been a free agent, and anybody who gets to free agency wants to find out what’s out there,’’ he said. “I think they got too hasty in making their decision, but now I’m with Cleveland and I’m happy to be here.’’

Encarnacion last season hit .263/.357/.529 with 42 home runs and an AL-best 127 RBI. He’s now on the team that defeated his Blue Jays in the ALCS to advance to the World Series. Encarnacion effectively replaces Mike Napoli, who returned to the Rangers.

Sammy Sosa compares himself to Jesus Christ

Sammy Sosa
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I’m on record saying that Sammy Sosa has been rather hosed by baseball history.

The guy did amazing things. Unheard-of things. He was truly astounding at this peak and was incredibly important to both his franchise and Major League Baseball as a whole. His repayment: he’s a pariah. His club won’t claim him and his greatness, by any measure, has not just been overlooked but denied by most who even bother to consider him.

Yes, he had PED associations, but they were extraordinarily vague ones. He’s in the same boat as David Ortiz as far as documented PED evidence against him, but Ortiz will be a first ballot Hall of Famer while Sosa barely clings to the ballot. He hit homers at the same cartoonish rate as Mark McGwire, but while Big Mac has been embraced by baseball and has coached for years, Sosa can’t get into Wrigley Field unless he buys a ticket and even then the Cubs might try to hustle him out of sight. The man has been treated poorly by any measure.

Yet, it’s still possible to overstate the case. Like Sosa did in this interview with Chuck Wasserstrom:

It’s like Jesus Christ when he came to Jerusalem,” Sosa told chuckbloggerstrom.com. “Everybody thought Jesus Christ was a witch (laughing) — and he was our savior. So if they talk (bleep) about Jesus Christ, what about me? Are you kidding me?”

At least he was basically joking about it. Still, it’s a totally unfair and almost offensive comparison.

I mean, anyone who watched Sosa’s career knows that he had trouble laying off breaking stuff low and away. In contrast . . .