Role reversal: Broxton blows game as Phillies pen thrives

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Jonathan Broxton was untouchable in Los Angeles this season, allowing just 14 hits and no homers in 45 innings. The .095 average against and 73/9 K/BB ratio allowed him to convert 18 of 19 save chances.
Elsewhere, it was a different story. Broxton was still throwing 98 mph, but he allowed 30 hits and 20 walks in 31 innings in road games. He amassed a 5.81 ERA and blew five saves.
The road woes bit him again in a big way Monday, as he walked Matt Stairs, hit Carlos Ruiz and then allowed a game-winning two-run double to Jimmy Rollins in the ninth inning, giving the Phillies a 5-4 win in Game 4 of the NLCS and a commanding 3-1 series lead.
It looked like the Dodgers had a great chance to tie the series up when George Sherrill struck out Ryan Howard with two on in the eighth. Broxton came in then and retired Jayson Werth to end the frame and maintain the team’s one-run lead.
Broxton, though, couldn’t keep it going after a quick groundout from Raul Ibanez to start the ninth. Rest wasn’t an issue, as Broxton hadn’t pitched in three days. He just started missing with his fastball. Stairs worked his walk on only four pitches. Ruiz became just the second batter hit by the right-hander all season. Versus Rollins, he left a fastball right over the heart of the plate. Broxton’s mistakes aren’t punished all that often because of his velocity and movement, but Rollins got all of this one and it was obvious before the ball even landed that Ruiz would score from first.
Overlooked from the game will be the fine work from Philly’s pen, as Chan Ho Park, Ryan Madson, Scott Eyre and Brad Lidge combined to pitch three scoreless innings. Lidge came on after Rafael Furcal singled with one out in the top of the ninth and struck out Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier in succession. It won’t go down as a save or even a hold, but those may have been the biggest outs he’ll get all month.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

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Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.