Daily Dose: Lidge blows another one

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Brad Lidge blew his MLB-leading 11th save Wednesday, dropping to 0-8 with a 7.48 ERA. Asked afterward why Lidge continues to receive save chances, Charlie Manuel said: “I keep sending him back out there and hopefully he does the job. That’s about all I can say. I pull like hell for him every time he goes out there.” Brett Myers isn’t an option because of shoulder problems and Manuel doesn’t trust Ryan Madson. So …
Benjamin Franklin once opined that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results, which would make Manuel certifiable. Philadelphia has enough cushion in the NL East that allowing Lidge to cough up lead after lead hasn’t hurt their postseason chances, but all that margin for error vanishes in less than two weeks and the Phillies’ bullpen is as big a mess as ever.
While the “pull like hell for him” approach to managing proves dicey, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Tim Hudson allowed nine hits and two walks in six innings Wednesday, but worked around the many base runners by inducing three double plays among 16 ground-ball outs. Hudson was no sure thing to pitch at all this year after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery last August, but hasn’t missed a beat since returning last month and is now 2-1 with a 3.56 ERA through five starts.
His average fastball has clocked in at 90.1 miles per hour after living between 90.3 and 90.9 in the four seasons prior to going under the knife, his breaking-ball velocity is also similar to pre-surgery levels, and perhaps most importantly he’s maintained the extreme ground-ball tendencies that have long keyed his success. Hudson looks strong so far, but the Braves still have a tough call on his $12 million option for 2010.
* Milton Bradley issued a public statement Wednesday, apologizing to both the Cubs and fans. Meanwhile, the team agreed to make his 15-game suspension with pay so that Bradley and the players’ union wouldn’t raise a stink. In other words, he’ll make about $400,000 to take a two-week vacation and then this offseason the Cubs will do everything possible to shed the two years and $20 million remaining on his contract.
AL Quick Hits: Jermaine Dye finally snapped out of his second-half funk with a pair of homers Wednesday … Josh Beckett made a rare start without Jason Varitek as his catcher Wednesday, winning with Victor Martinez behind the plate … After a brief stint in the bullpen, Francisco Liriano is slated to replace Jeff Manship in the rotation Sunday … Justin Masterson was rocked for eight runs Wednesday, making him 1-5 with a 5.21 ERA since joining the Indians … X-rays on Jorge Posada’s injured foot came back negative, but Jose Molina got the start Wednesday … Matt Wieters went 2-for-4 with a homer Wednesday and is batting .377 this month … Tim Wakefield is scheduled to start Tuesday against the Blue Jays on a week’s rest … Carlos Guillen homered from both sides of the plate Wednesday as the Tigers stayed 2.5 games up on the Twins … Wade Davis struggled Wednesday after throwing 124 pitches in his last start … Denard Span (head) is hoping to rejoin the lineup Friday.
NL Quick Hits: Bobby Cox announced Wednesday that he’ll return for one more year as Braves manager before moving into a front-office gig … Prince Fielder smacked his 42nd homer Wednesday to take over the NL lead with 131 RBIs … Martin Prado was scratched from Wednesday’s lineup after being hit on the knee by a liner during batting practice … Lou Piniella said Wednesday that the Cubs may opt to shut Rich Harden down for the season … Chad Billingsley returned to the rotation Wednesday with nine strikeouts and a Quality Start … Carlos Ruiz (wrist) could rejoin the lineup by early next week after an MRI exam showed no structural damage … Kevin Hart was rocked for eight runs Wednesday, making him 1-7 with a 6.93 ERA since joining the Pirates … Bud Norris tossed six scoreless innings Wednesday to out-duel John Smoltz … Mark Reynolds broke his own single-season strikeout record and no one really cares … Adam LaRoche stayed hot Wednesday, going 3-for-5 with two RBIs.

Jessica Mendoza and Chris Archer were great in the booth

Jessica Mendoza
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Not news: Jessica Mendoza, who has been excellent on all of the ESPN broadcasts she has done since taking over for Curt Schilling, was excellent last night too.

She was great on the nuts and bolts, continued to show that she can describe hitting mechanics better than most color commentators — way more of them seem to be more comfortable talking about pitching — and was a seamless presence in the booth in terms of flow, timbre and all of the aesthetic aspects of broadcasting. If she has a fault thus far it’s that she leans on some cliches about hitters’ mindsets and desire to win sometimes. This puts her in with approximately 100% of all other color commentators in baseball now and throughout the history of baseball, of course, so it’s not really a demerit.

Ultimately, the true test of a good commentator is whether they (a) add insight; and (b) do so without distracting or upstaging the game. In this Mendoza is superior to most commentators in baseball and clearly superior to the “stop and listen to me” brand of analysts the major networks have employed on national broadcasts in recent years.

Indeed, the best compliment I think I can give Mendoza is that she was — in the literal sense, not the judgmental sense — unremarkable. Meaning: during the game and after there was nothing she said or did that was worthy of the highly-critical remarks almost every broadcaster gets, going back through Schilling, Kruk, Harold Reynolds Tim McCarver, Joe Morgan and everyone else ESPN and Fox have forced upon us in their history doing playoff baseball. I’m on Twitter during most playoff games and sometimes the broadcaster bashing is more interesting than the game. Mendoza gives the would-be bashers very little material.

At least those who would bash on the actual merits. There remains a group of deadenders who are irked by her very presence in the booth because she is a woman. The New York times rounds up some of the less mouth-breathery types today, but God knows there are many, many worse. Some of them even in professional media. At least for now. Whether you choose to ignore those people or choose to engage them — which, their dead end opinions notwithstanding can be a useful exercise in my view — know that they are out there being miserable and sexist as God and the First Amendment intended them to be.

While there are many who slam Mendoza on the faulty premise that she lacks credentials and experience in the booth, there was one person in the ESPN booth last night, at least for a while, who was a total TV noob. His name was Chris Archer. He pitches a bit for the Tampa Bay Rays. And lo and behold, he was pretty damn good himself.

Archer needs some polish for style — he has a lot of “ummms” and “uhhhs” about him — but his analysis is both sharp and quick. Meaning he was RIGHT ON the points when he needed to be without any of the usual prompting guests in the booth need from the play-by-play guy. At one point he even flowed into play-by-play and did a pretty good job of it.  Chris: if that pitching stuff doesn’t work out, you have a bright, bright future in television.

So, on the first night of the playoffs, there were no complaints about the broadcast. Mostly because the broadcasters weren’t the stars of the show. The game was. And it was complemented nicely by a couple of good voices.

And John Kruk.

NL Wild Card Game: Cubs vs. Pirates lineups

Jake Arrieta

Here are the Cubs and Pirates lineups for tonight’s Wild Card game in Pittsburgh:

CF Dexter Fowler
RF Kyle Schwarber
LF Kris Bryant
1B Anthony Rizzo
3B Tommy La Stella
2B Starlin Castro
C Miguel Montero
SS Addison Russell
SP Jake Arrieta

Cubs manager Joe Maddon wanted Tommy La Stella in the lineup over Jorge Soler or Chris Coghlan, so he starts at third base and Kris Bryant shifts to left field. Bryant started just four games in left field all season, compared to 136 starts at third base. Also of note: After batting Addison Russell ninth–behind the pitcher–116 times this season Maddon has him in the more traditional eighth spot tonight.

RF Gregory Polanco
3B Josh Harrison
CF Andrew McCutchen
LF Starling Marte
C Francisco Cervelli
2B Neil Walker
SS Jordy Mercer
1B Sean Rodriguez
SP Gerrit Cole

Pedro Alvarez started 119 games at first base for the Pirates and with right-hander Jake Arrieta on the mound he was the presumed starter tonight, but instead manager Clint Hurdle has benched the 27-homer slugger in favor of utility man Sean Rodriguez. Alvarez is vastly superior to Rodriguez offensively, especially versus a righty, but he’s also very shaky defensively. During the regular season Rodriguez started a grand total of one game at first base against a right-hander, so this qualifies as a hunch by Hurdle.