Return of Bad Brad dooms Phillies

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It was fun while it lasted.
Lidge opened the postseason with five straight scoreless appearances. He put together that kind of streak just once during the regular season, when he saved five in a row from May 26-June 1. Of course, he finished the regular season 0-8 with 11 blown saves and a 7.21 ERA.
It looked like Lidge might be on his way to another flawless inning Sunday in a tie game against the Yankees, as he retired Hideki Matsui on a popout and struck out Derek Jeter to begin the top of the ninth. A Johnny Damon single and then one of the oddest double steals you’ll ever see followed. With Mark Teixeira up and the shift employed, Damon swiped second and kept on going, reaching third easily since third baseman Pedro Feliz had been covering second.
Damon’s presence on third as the go-ahead run appeared to make Lidge nervous about using his slider. He went on to hit Teixeira and then give up a go-ahead double on a fastball to Alex Rodriguez that caught too much of the plate. Jorge Posada followed with a hard two-run single to the gap, and Lidge only got out of the inning because one of the game’s worst baserunners chose to continue on to second and was thrown out by 20 feet. Mariano Rivera finished from there, and the Yankees won 7-4.
It was another well played game until the ninth. CC Sabathia was fine on three days’ rest, surrendering three runs in 6 2/3 innings. Joe Blanton overcame a poor first to keep the Phillies in it by allowing four runs over six innings. Chase Utley homered off Sabathia, and Pedro Feliz tied the game in the eighth with a solo shot off Joba Chamberlain. The Yankees got their runs without hitting a homer. It helped that they really bunched together their hits. All seven runs and eight of their nine hits came in three innings (the first, fifth and ninth).
That the Phillies have gotten so little from the first, fourth and sixth spots in their order has made it very difficult for them to sustain rallies. Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez are all struggling mightily right now. Ibanez was particularly awful tonight. His first at-bat, a strikeout against Sabathia with two on and two out in the first, was the worst that any hitter had all night, and he ended up 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
The Phillies now face a big uphill climb to come back in the World Series. They’re the definite favorites in Game 5, with Cliff Lee pitching at home against A.J. Burnett on short rest. Still, even if they prevail then, taking two in a row in Yankee Stadium, without having Lee to fall back on, will be extremely difficult.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.