I realize that some of you were watching the Tony Awards, the NBA Finals and other things that don’t really matter all that much, but the smart ones among you were watching the Cubs-White Sox game. If you did, you watched a pretty damn spiffy pitching matchup, with Ted Lilly and Gavin Floyd matching no-hit bids until late in the game.
Lilly still had his going in the eighth when White Sox’ second baseman Gordon Beckham tried to lay down a bunt to break it up. This did not sit well with the fans in Wrigley, who booed the attempt, most likely because they perceived it as a violation of baseball’s unwritten rules. Or maybe they were just booing the fact that Old Style sales were cut off. You never can tell with a Wrigley crowd. Either way, Ozzie Guillen weighed in on it all:
“You bunt in the ninth, that’s unprofessional. But the
eighth, Wrigley Field people; the only thing they can do is boo. They
boo for every freakin thing here.”
The Cubs fans were ridiculous to boo, but I’d argue even with Ozzie on this point: in a 1-0 game you can bunt whenever the hell you want if you think it’s your best chance to get on base. I mean, sure, we can talk what’s bush league and what isn’t if the score is 6-0, but in a close game on a rainy night, when the pitcher is starting to think more about his impending accomplishment? Damn skippy I’m asking a speedy player to lay down a bunt if he thinks he can reach on it.
Of course, I’d also be curious to hear what Guillen would say if the situation was reversed and Starlin Castro was laying one down on Floyd. Something tells me he’d take issue with it, and that he wouldn’t confine his adjectives to the word “freakin’.”
Despite having hit at least 20 home runs in eight of his 11 seasons in the majors, Reds first baseman Joey Votto has never participated in a Home Run Derby. Currently, he’s tied for the National League lead in home runs with 20, and he hasn’t been invited to this year’s festivities at Marlins Park.
In the event he is invited, Votto said he thinks he can win it, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto likened himself to Ichiro Suzuki, a player known more for his contact abilities and mastery of the strike zone than power. “Just think of me as the Canadian Ichiro — Japan has theirs and Canada has theirs,” Votto said. “I could pull homers into the seats at will.”
Along with the 20 homers, Votto is currently hitting .306/.419/.601 with 53 RBI, and 52 runs scored in 313 plate appearances.
Teammate Scott Schebler also has 20 home runs at the moment and Adam Duvall, who made it to the semifinals of the Derby last year, has 16. Neither of them have been approached about participating in the Derby, either. Per Rosecrans, in the event each was invited, Duvall said he would consider participating if he wasn’t an All-Star and Schebler would participate regardless. Votto said he would only participate if he made the All-Star team.
The Phillies won their first game since last Thursday, beating the Cardinals 5-1 on Thursday afternoon. Starter Aaron Nola pitched into the eighth inning, but left with one out. Pat Neshek took the mound with a runner on first base and induced an inning-ending double play on a 3-1 count to Tommy Pham.
Given that Neshek only threw five pitches and the Phillies were staked to a four-run lead, it wouldn’t have seemed unreasonable if the sidewinding right-hander came back out to finish the ninth inning as well. But Luis Garcia had that honor, tossing a scoreless final frame to nail down the win in a non-save situation.
After the game, manager Pete Mackanin said he asked Neshek to go back out for the ninth, but Neshek didn’t want to, per Stephen Gross of the Morning Call. Neshek told the media that Mackanin never asked him. There was also a miscommunication on Wednesday. The combination of Joaquin Benoit, Hector Neris, and Edubray Ramos combined to allow four runs in 2 1/3 innings, helping the Phillies lose 7-6. Neshek never appeared. According to Mackanin, Neshek told him that he wasn’t available to pitch. Neshek said he was told he’d have the day off.
The disconnect between Mackanin and Neshek could speak to a larger divide between the manager and his failing team. The Phillies have underwhelmed across the board due to players like Odubel Herrera (whose head was down and did not see Juan Samuel’s stop sign last night in what became a base running blunder), Maikel Franco, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Aaron Nola (today’s start notwithstanding), and Hector Neris not living up to expectations. The Phillies signed Mackanin to a contract extension last month, but the team has completely fallen apart since then and the latest communications issues certainly don’t reflect well on him. Neither does last night’s travesty of a game.
As for Neshek, he said that going to the Phillies was “the best thing that happened to me in a few years” but also realized, given the state of the team, that it remains very likely he winds up in a new uniform by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. After Thursday’s performance, Neshek is carrying a 0.63 ERA with a 25/4 K/BB ratio in 28 2/3 innings. He very well could be the Phillies’ lone representative at the All-Star Game in Miami next month. That is, if he’s still wearing their uniform. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Nationals have shown interest in Neshek.