Bullpen looks like Phillies' only weakness

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Prior to Brad Lidge’s arrival Brett Myers served as the Phillies’ closer for most of 2007, converting 21-of-24 saves with a 2.87 ERA and 64/18 K/BB ratio in 53.1 innings as a reliever.
Myers has spent most of this season on the disabled list following hip surgery, but with four scoreless appearances in five tries since returning two weeks ago he’s seemingly an alternative to Ryan Madson as the replacement closer now that Lidge has pitched himself out of ninth-inning duties.
However, manager Charlie Manuel said yesterday that Myers is not an option yet:

Watching him the three or four times we’ve run him out there, he’s not quite ready. He still has some problems at times. It’s kind of like he’s back in spring training. He’s not 100 percent. He has soreness, which is kind of normal because he missed so much time. Right now, he’s not ready to be turned loose.

For the most part the Phillies look incredibly strong heading into the postseason. Offensively they lead the NL in homers, doubles, slugging percentage, and runs scored. Cliff Lee and Pedro Martinez are a combined 12-2 with a 2.74 ERA since joining the team, Cole Hamels has gone 3-1 with a 1.43 ERA in his last five starts, and the presence of Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ makes for perhaps the deepest rotation in baseball.
Yet all the good hitting and all the strong starting pitching can go for naught in the postseason if relievers can’t hold leads and Lidge’s collapse combined with Chan Ho Park’s hamstring injury and Myers’ uncertain status has turned the Phillies’ bullpen into a major question mark. Luckily they have a 7.5-game lead in the NL East and three more weeks to sort things out before embarking on their title defense.

Video: Bryce Harper crushes a home run to the Chase Field concourse

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Aaron Judge may be the talk of the town right now, but let’s not forget some of Major League Baseball’s more established sluggers. Take the Nationals’ Bryce Harper, for instance, who jumped on a full count during the first inning of Saturday’s game and postmarked the ball to the center field concourse in Chase Field.

Harper’s mammoth hit was the first career home run allowed by Diamondbacks’ rookie Anthony Banda. Banda quickly recovered with an inning-ending strikeout to Ryan Zimmerman, but was booted from his big league debut after Harper, Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon combined for a three-run spread in the sixth.

The first-inning homer also served another purpose: it extended Harper’s hitting streak to 15 games, the longest current streak in MLB this season. He’ll need four more games to tie the 19-game streak Royals’ infielder/outfielder Whit Merrifield established back in June.

The Nationals currently lead the Diamondbacks 4-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Chi Chi Gonzalez to undergo Tommy John surgery

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Rangers’ right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez is slated for Tommy John surgery, according to a report by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Gonzalez was placed on the 60-day disabled list back in early April with a partial UCL tear and was working towards a throwing program before getting sidelined with more elbow pain. He’s expected to miss the entirety of the 2018 season while recovering from the surgery.

This is the second straight season that has been derailed for Gonzalez due to injury. The 25-year-old starter pitched just 10 1/3 innings in 2016 after recovering from a torn UCL, and was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock to finish out the year after compiling an 8.71 ERA, 7.8 BB/9 and 6.1 SO/9 in three starts with the club. He showed more promise in Triple-A with a 4.70 ERA, 2.9 BB/9 and 5.9 SO/9 through 24 starts and 138 innings.

It’s a tough blow for the Rangers, who have seen Gonzalez healthy in just one major league season to date. General manager Jon Daniels told reporters that a recent MRI showed signs of weakening in the ligament, which disrupted the team’s plans to have the right-hander stick to a six- to eight-week recovery timetable after getting a platelet-rich plasma injection (via Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram). The surgery is expected to take place next week and will put Gonzalez’s earliest return date sometime in September 2018.