I was just sort of joking in the recaps this morning when I mused that the Braves could potentially overtake the Phillies for the division, but apparently some people in Philadelphia are a little uneasy. Maybe the Braves fan in me is reading too much into it, but is Charlie Manuel making excuses already?
“The schedule has been perfect for them. That’s definitely not an excuse, because I feel we have the best team in our league,” Manuel said. “But the schedule’s been good for them. [Bobby] Cox might have made that schedule up. He announced his retirement and they let him go ahead and make the schedule.”
Blaming the schedule. The last refuge of a scoundrel. And maybe a choker. But here’s a couple of things about the schedule: (1) Philly and Atlanta play in the same division, so they have basically the same schedule; (2) the only difference in interleague schedules is that rather than play the Rays like the Phillies did, the Braves were stuck with three extra games against Boston; and (3) if you really wanted to make this last week meaningless, Charlie, you should have done better than 8-10 head-to-head against Atlanta.
The upshot: If Philly somehow loses this thing — and the odds are still really stacked in the Phillies favor, I don’t deny it — they only have themselves to blame.
In the meantime, here is some reading material to tide you over until tonight’s game.
Blue Jays’ outfielder Anthony Alford will miss at least 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery on his left wrist, the team announced on Saturday. Alford was placed on the 10-day disabled list earlier in the week after sustaining a left hamate fracture on a foul pitch, and could miss significant time in what looks to be a lengthy rehab process. MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the procedure has been scheduled for next week and will be performed by Dr. Donald Sheridan in Arizona.
Alford, 22, was called up to the majors from Double-A New Hampshire last Friday. He went hitless in his first three outings, finally catching a break against the Brewers on Tuesday when he pinch-hit a leadoff double in the seventh. The injury occurred two innings later when Alford fouled off a pitch in the ninth inning, fracturing his wrist in the process.
Alford will join eight other players on the Blue Jays’ disabled list, including outfielders Steve Pearce (calf strain), Dalton Pompey (concussion) and Darrell Cecillani (partial shoulder dislocation). He’s expected to be replaced by 24-year-old outfield prospect Dwight Smith Jr.
Good luck getting a hit against the Nationals this weekend. Stephen Strasburg followed Max Scherzer‘s 13-strikeout performance on Friday with a dazzling outing of his own on Saturday afternoon. The right-hander whiffed a career-best 15 batters in seven innings, allowing just three hits and a walk in the Nats’ 3-0 win.
It took Strasburg several innings to get into a groove after pitching into (and out of) a jam in the first inning. The Padres loaded the bases with Allen Cordoba‘s leadoff single, a throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman and a four-pitch walk to Cory Spangenberg. By the third, Strasburg was cruising, striking out the side on 18 pitches and keeping the Padres off the basepaths until the sixth. He recorded his 15th and final strikeout in the seventh inning, catching Padres’ prospect Franchy Cordero swinging on a 1-2 pitch to effectively end his outing.
While 15 strikeouts set a new career record for the Nationals’ ace, he came close to reaching the mark twice before. The first time, he struck out 14 of 24 batters during his major league debut against the 2010 Pirates, though the 5-2 win did little more than keep the Nationals neck-and-neck with the Marlins at the bottom of the NL East. Five years later, he tied his 14-strikeout record against the 2015 Phillies, tossing a one-hitter in eight innings to cement his ninth victory of the season.
The only one who doesn’t seem overly enthused by the new record? Strasburg himself, who told MLB.com’s Jamal Collier and AJ Cassavell: “It’s pretty cool, but there’s another game five, six days from now. I’ll enjoy it tonight, but back to work tomorrow.”