Phils use three starters, still come up short

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Pedro Martinez has made an impressive late-season comeback, but Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ still looked like the Phillies’ third- and fourth-best starters, if not second- and third-best, entering the postseason. That’s why it was such a surprise to see both pitch in relief in Thursday’s Game 2 loss to the Rockies.
It was Cole Hamels who started the game. There was really no arguing against it, even if he pitched worse than both Blanton and Happ all season long. The 2008 postseason hero turned in one of his typical 2009 outings against the Rockies, giving up four runs over five innings despite striking out five and walking none. He allowed a two-run homer to Yorvit Torrealba in the fourth. It was Torrealba’s first homer since May.
Carlos Gonzalez played key roles in the other rallies. The second-year outfielder singled, stole a base and scored in the first and doubled with Aaron Cook on first in the fifth. Anyone else would have scored on the play, but Gonzalez was denied an RBI. Cook instead came around to score on Dexter Fowler’s sacrifice fly.
Hamels exited a 4-0 game, and Blanton came on to pitch a scoreless top of the sixth. The Phillies went on to rally for three in the bottom of the inning, knocking Cook from the game.
From there, manager Charlie Manuel could have stuck with a full rested Blanton and seen if he could have finished the game or at least taken it to the ninth. The Phillies, though, were already warming up Happ. They turned to the left-hander after a double and a mistake on a grounder put two on with none out in the seventh.
Happ’s outing turned out to be far shorter than Blanton’s. Seth Smith hit one back through the middle that got the left-hander in the shin, knocking him from the game with a bruise. Worse, it loaded the bases with no outs.
Fortunately, Scott Eyre was able to minimize the damage, pitching out of the jam while allowing just one run. Down by two, the Phillies still had chances to come back. However, they were limited to Jayson Werth’s solo homer in the eighth. They stranded the go-ahead run on base in the ninth as they lost 5-4.
Now the Phillies face a Game 3 in Colorado potentially started by Martinez. Both Blanton and Happ should be ready to start Game 4. The Phillies could go back to Lee on short rest then if they want, but it would mean scheduling Hamels on short rest in Game 5 and that hardly seems like an ideal situation right now. Reserving Lee for Game 5 remains the smart strategy.
Pedro in Coors will be fascinating to watch, assuming that it materializes. There is one more chance for upheaval, as there’s the possibility of snow in Denver on Saturday. If the game gets postponed, the Phillies would again have three starting options in Game 3. Martinez seems likely to take a backseat in that scenario.

Didi Gregorius continues to be ridiculous

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Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius had another fantastic night last night. He went 3-for-3, hitting a home run for the fourth game in a row, had an RBI single and reached base safely in all five of his plate appearances in New York’s 7-4 win over Minnesota.

For the year that gives Gregorius a line of .372/.470/.833, putting him atop the American League in average, slugging, OPS, and OPS+. He also leads the league in total bases (65) and RBI (29). He leads all of baseball in fWAR at 2.2, edging out Mike Trout despite the fact that Trout has played in two more games. He’s second behind Trout in homers with nine.

After last night’s game he insisted that he is not a home run hitter:

“I do have a lot of home runs, but it’s not like I am going out there to try to hit them . . . I’m not a power guy like Judge and Stanton, who hit 50 to 60 and up. Those are the guys who actually hit home runs. One year, let’s say, I hit five — then you ask me where that part went . . . if they go out, they go out. I’m just mostly trying to barrel it up and get a good swing . . . I try to hit line drives and if you check most of my home runs they were line drives,” he said. “It’s not like I am going up to hit deep fly balls.”

Given that he hit 25 homers last year and 20 the year before, he’s being a bit modest, even if he’s not likely to keep up this torrid pace. That modesty is not stopping some people from getting a bit carried away, of course:

 

We’ll forgive Bob for the hyperbole. Didi has been fun to watch.