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.

Kyle Lohse is throwing for interested teams today

Kyle Lohse
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
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Free agent starter Kyle Lohse is throwing for interested teams at the University of California, Irvine, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports.

Lohse, 37, remains unsigned into baseball’s second month on the heels of last season’s 5.85 ERA and 108/43 K/BB ratio over 152 1/3 innings. Although Lohse was quite good in the four seasons prior, teams are understandably reluctant to bank on pitchers in their late-30’s.

The Orioles, Tigers, and Reds have had reported interest in Lohse in recent months.

Majestic Athletic employees will protest at Coca-Cola Park on Friday

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 10: Kris Bryant (L) of the Chicago Cubs and Anthony Rizzo #44 pose for a photo with their All Star jersey's before the game against the Chicago White Sox on July 10, 2015 at  Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
David Banks/Getty Images
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Anthony Salamone of the Morning Call reports that Majestic Athletic employees plan to protest at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, PA on Friday night. The employees are protesting Majestic’s owner VF Corporation’s attempt to undercut wages and medical benefits. VF Corporation acquired Majestic in February 2007.

Coca-Cola Park is home to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate. Majestic has manufacturing facilities in Easton, PA, which is less than a half-hour from Coca-Cola Park. The IronPigs, as well as all 30 Major League Baseball teams, wear uniforms manufactured by Majestic.

Corporations affiliated with Major League Baseball taking advantage of employees isn’t anything new. Last year, when protests over police violence disrupted the Orioles’ schedule, some employees with the Orioles and Aramark almost lost out on multiple days of pay.

Eddie Perez likely to be Braves’ interim manager if Fredi Gonzalez is fired

Atlanta Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez, left, stands with manager Fredi Gonzalez during a spring training baseball workout, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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There’s been a lot of rumbling that Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez will soon get the pink slip. His team is 7-20 entering Thursday’s action. Historically, front offices — particularly those of rebuilding/restructuring teams — respond to that by making coaching and/or managerial changes.

Per MLB.com’s Mark Bowman, bullpen coach Eddie Perez is likely to fill in as the Braves’ manager on an interim basis if and when Gonzalez is fired. Perez has been with the Braves as a coach since 2007. He played for the Braves in 10 out of his 11 seasons from 1995-2005. Perez wasn’t known for his bat, but was respected for the way he called games and handled the Braves’ then-elite pitching staff.

Bowman notes that Gonzalez isn’t expected to be fired over the weekend. If the team plays well, that could extend Gonzalez’s leash, so to speak.

First baseman Freddie Freeman issued a vote of confidence for his skipper, saying, “I think everything is getting magnified since we’re off to this start. I don’t know if it’s fair to put it all on [Gonzalez] because he’s not a player. We’re the 25 guys [who have to] go out there and play every day. We’re obviously not playing to our capabilities. To say that’s Fredi’s fault is unfair in my opinion.”

What’s on Tap: Previewing Thursday’s action

Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo, left, and Kris Bryant celebrate a 7-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
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The Phillies and Cardinals got started a little early, finishing up their four-game series on Thursday afternoon. In the evening, we have 10 games on our slate, including Cubs-Nationals.

The Cubs have jumped out to a 20-6 start, looking like baseball’s best — and scariest — team. Entering Thursday’s action, the Cubs have a +93 run differential (runs scored minus runs allowed). That’s by far the best in baseball. The next best are the Nationals at +50, the Mets at +44, and the Cardinals at +41. In fact, the Cubs’ run differential is so good that they have under-performed relative to their expected won-lost record of 22-4.

This is without Kyle Schwarber. This is with Jason Heyward hitting a miserable .211/.317/.256, Jorge Soler hitting .185/.276/.292, and Addison Russell hitting .224/.356/.329. It’s with John Lackey pitching to a 4.32 ERA.

What makes the Cubs so good? They’re on-base machines. The club’s aggregate .364 on-base percentage is second best in the majors behind the Pirates. Dexter Fowler has an outstanding .470 OBP and Anthony Rizzo is at an elite .403. In fact, of their regulars with 100-plus plate appearances, Heyward is the only one with a sub-.350 OBP. The league average is .319. The Cubs steal bases, too, as they’re 17-for-24 (~71 percent) in that department.

The Cubs have baseball’s best pitching staff, which has yielded a major league-best 2.54 runs per game. Only four teams are below 3.00 runs allowed per game. Of course, reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta is the big contributor to that with a sterling 0.84 ERA, but Jon Lester has put up a 1.58 mark and Jason Hammel 1.24. Closer Hector Rondon has found himself in only four save situations but has converted each of them with an even 1.00 ERA and a 15/0 K/BB ratio in nine innings. The Cubs’ aggregate bullpen ERA of 2.66 is fifth-best in the majors.

It’s too early to use defensive statistics with any degree of certainty, but even the eye test shows the Cubs to be elite defenders at the important positions, particularly shortstop (Russell), right field (Heyward), and third base (Kris Bryant).

The Cubs’ success isn’t exactly surprising. The club rode five consecutive fifth-place finishes into some high draft picks and that talent is starting to establish itself in the majors. Whether it was fans, writers, or Vegas oddsmakers, the Cubs were preseason darlings.

Kyle Hendricks starts for the Cubs opposite the Nationals’ Joe Ross at Wrigley Field tonight at 8:05 PM EDT.

The rest of Thursday’s action…

Detroit Tigers (Michael Fulmer) @ Cleveland Indians (Trevor Bauer), 6:10 PM EDT

New York Yankees (Masahiro Tanaka) @ Baltimore Orioles (Kevin Gausman), 7:05 PM EDT

Texas Rangers (Derek Holland) @ Toronto Blue Jays (J.A. Happ), 7:07 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Robbie Ray) @ Miami Marlins (Adam Conley), 7:10 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers (Chase Anderson) @ Cincinnati Reds (Alfredo Simon), 7:10 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox (Henry Owens) @ Chicago White Sox (Erik Johnson), 8:10 PM EDT

Seattle Mariners (Wade Miley) @ Houston Astros (Chris Devenski), 8:10 PM EDT

New York Mets (Jacob deGrom) @ San Diego Padres (Colin Rea), 10:10 PM EDT

Colorado Rockies (Chris Rusin) @ San Francisco Giants (Matt Cain), 10:15 PM EDT