Brad Lidge yo-yo back on the upswing

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lidge_brad_091015.jpgStill worried about the Phillies bullpen?

For all the talk of Brad Lidge falling off the ledge, he certainly looked fine on Thursday night in the NLCS opener. So did the rest of his bullpen mates (aside from Ryan Madson’s hiccup), holding the Dodgers in check in a wild 8-6 victory.

The Dodgers figured to have an edge in this series in the bullpen department with a lockdown closer in Jonathan Broxton plus a whole host of talented guys like Ramon Troncoso and Ronald Belisario, and a solid lefty specialist in George Sherrill.

The Phillies, on the other hand, had Lidge, who after a perfect 48-for-48 2008 season, reverted in 2009 to the guy who seemed stalked by Albert Pujols in his nightmares. The ugliness lasted all season long, resulting in a line of 0-8, 7.21 that would make Mariah Carey cringe.

But a couple of things were overlooked heading into the playoffs.

For one thing, Lidge seemed to finally get his act together in the last part of the season, allowing one run in his last four appearances. Add to that the two saves he notched in a pair of scoreless appearances in the NLDS, and Phillies fans could at least hope that their incredible yo-yo of a closer was once again on the upswing.

Another overlooked advantage for the Phillies was their overall pitching depth. The Phillies have so many talented starting pitchers they don’t know what do with them all. Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee were guaranteed starting spots, but with the extended format of the playoffs, Charlie Manuel has had some flexibility in deciding what to do with J.A. Happ, Pedro Martinez, Joe Blanton and Chan Ho Park, who took Brett Myers’ spot on the NLCS roster.

On Thursday night, Happ came out of the bullpen to get one out, and Park looked strong in a perfect seventh inning. Having these guys ready to go in relief takes pressure off the back-end guys like Scott Eyre, Madson and of course, Lidge.

Look, this isn’t to say this series is close to being over. Lidge gave up a hit and a single on Thursday, and was fortunate to have a hard-hit grounder turn into a double-play ball.

It’s also difficult to predict what the Phillies will get out of Martinez in his Game 2 start Friday, which will be his first action since Sept. 30. (In fact, he hasn’t even pitched in a playoff game since helping the Red Sox win the World Series in 2004.)

But it’s still a good sign for the Phillies to see Lidge notching saves again.

“Honestly, for some reason I’ve really been locked in this postseason. I felt really good mechanically. I feel like myself. I feel pretty comfortable right now.”

Lidge is locked in? Uh oh, Dodgers.

Cubs release Shane Victorino

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File this under “not terribly surprising,” but Shane Victorino was released from his minor league contract with the Cubs yesterday after batting .233/.324/.367 through nine games with Triple-A Iowa. Victorino says he does not plan on retiring, however, and that he plans to try to latch on someplace else.

It’ll be a supreme long shot. Victorino, 35, Victorino suffered a calf injury during spring training and missed all of spring training. Last year he played in only 71 games between the Red Sox and Angels, and 30 in 2014 with the Red Sox. He was last healthy and effective in 2013. In a league where older players don’t do as well as they used to, it seems unlikely that he’ll be able to find a gig.

If this is the end of the road for the Flyin’ Hawaiian, he’ll finish with a career batting line of .2750/.340/.425 with 108 homers, 489 RBI, 231 stolen bases and four Gold Glove Awards in 12 seasons. He also has two World Series rings, from the 2008 Phillies and the 2013 Red Sox. He was a two-time All-Star.

Maybe not the way he wanted to end his career, if this is indeed the end, but Victorino had a fine career while it lasted.

Miguel Sano criticized by his manager for dogging it on a defensive play

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Sal Perez of the Royals had a nice night last night, going 5-for-5. One of those five hits was a triple. But it maybe didn’t have to be a triple, as Perez’s hit to right field went over the head of Miguel Sano and off the wall, bouncing back toward the infield.

Sano is no one’s idea of a gold glover so getting on him for not catching a ball at the wall is only going to have so much of an effect. But Twins manager Paul Molitor was rightly upset, it would seem, for how Sano reacted after the ball bounced off the wall. Specifically: he basically just stopped and watched it roll away as center fielder Danny Santana had to spring over and field it as the slow Perez lumbered around the bases. Molitor:

“I think maybe he assumed that [second baseman Eduardo] Nunez or Danny were going to be in better position after he positioned himself close to the wall to make the catch,” Molitor said. “But you want him to go for the ball even if you think there’s somebody else to help you out. Sometimes you get caught assuming out there and it doesn’t look too good.”

You can watch the play below. It starts at around the :37 second mark and is Perez’s third hit in the sequence:

Red Sox reliever Carson Smith to have Tommy John surgery

BOSTON, MA - MAY 09:  Carson Smith #39 of the Boston Red Sox looks on in the seventh inning during the game against the Oakland Athletics at Fenway Park on May 9, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Last season Carson Smith was an effective and durable relief pitcher for the Seattle Mariners, appearing in 70 games. In the offseason the Red Sox traded for him and Roenis Elias in exchange for Jonathan Aro and Wade Miley. This year Smith has appeared in just three games. And he will appear in no more as the Red Sox just announced that he will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery today.

Smith last appeared in a game ten days ago and, until today, it was believed that his injury was minor, like the flexor strain injury he sustained in spring training. Sadly, the news was much worse.

Bill “Spaceman” Lee is running for governor of Vermont

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Bill Lee pitched for the Boston Red Sox from 1969 through 1978 and for the Montreal Expos from 1979 through 1982. He’s far better known, however, for being a weirdo, in the best sense of the term. He was outspoken and controversial and funny and aggravating and above all else his own dude.

His most famous comment as a player was when he said that he sprinkled marijuana on his pancakes in order to immunize him from Boston bus fumes as he jogged to Fenway Park. Which is patently silly, as everyone knowns you can’t just sprinkle it. You gotta make butter out of the stuff and spread it on the pancakes. Or so I’m told.

In recent years Lee has alternated gimmicky and celebrity baseball appearances with political aspirations. His political aspirations, of course, have never been conventional either. In 1987, for example, he had announced plans to run for President of the United States for the Rhinoceros Party. Which would’ve been a neat trick as it was a Canadian political party. Still, we could’ve used it here, as its platform was fairly intriguing. The Rhinoceroses advocated, among other things, repealing the law of gravity, legalizing all drugs, privatizing Tim Hortons and giving a rhinoceros for every Canadian Citizen.

That campaign didn’t work out for Lee, sadly, but he is undeterred. And now he plans to run for office again. Governor of Vermont, to be specific. And he plans to soak the rich:

Now, he’s throwing his hat into the race to be Vermont’s next governor shaking off campaign contributions and decrying wealth inequality.

“You get what you pay for, if you want change, you vote for Sanders or me. I’m Bernie-heavy, I’m not Bernie-lite. My ideas were before Bernie,” said Lee. “If you want to see money come down from the 2 percent, we’re going to need umbrellas when I’m elected, because it’s going to be raining dollars,” he said.

This is no Rhinoceros Party joke, though. He’s a member of the Liberty Union party, which is where Bernie Sanders got his start. And his platform — legalization and taxation of pot in Vermont, single-payer health care, paid family leave — are all things which have no small constituency in a liberal state like Vermont.

Oh, he has one other platform plank: bringing the Expos back to Montreal. That may be a bit tougher for the governor of Vermont to do, but we’ll probably see some form of New Expos in Montreal in the next decade or so, and Lee will be proven to be on the right side of history. And that’s better than a lot of our politicians can say, right?