Dodgers collapse, Phillies prevail in a wild one


Over-analyzing one baseball game is frivolous.  Heck, over-analyzing a three-game series is frivolous.  The baseball season is a 162-game grind that is best viewed in large chunks — halves or quarters, whatever.

But, every year and without fail, there are games that seem to swing the pendulum of momentum within a division race.  The Cardinals’ three-game sweep of the Reds in Cincinnati this week felt important.  And it was important.  Same goes for the Dodgers’ brutal loss to the Phillies on Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park.

Up 9-2 heading into the bottom of the 8th inning, the Dodgers looked to have a victory in hand.  Sure, their bullpen is not without flaws, but getting six outs while protecting a seven-run lead is not exactly a daunting task.  At least, not on most nights.

Reliever Ronald Belisario, fresh off a stint on the restricted list due to a substance abuse problem, opened the bottom of the 8th for the Dodgers.  He surrendered a single to Placido Polanco, a single to Mike Sweeney, then threw a wild pitch that allowed both Phillies to advance.  Jayson Werth made him pay immediately with a two-run base hit, then Werth advanced to second when Belisario was issued a balk. 

Collapse in session.

Belisario served up another RBI to Ben Francisco before exiting to a 9-5 deficit and a large, sarcastic applause from the Philadelphia faithful.  The Phils got one more run across the plate against Kenley Jansen, closing out the 8th inning with a big “9-6” flashing on the outfield scoreboard. 

You could smell trouble in the air.  And the cheesesteaks.  You could definitely smell cheesesteaks.

Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton, a massive and mostly dominant right-hander, has never pitched well against the Phillies.  Including Thursday’s ugly showing, he is 2-2 with a 9.82 ERA, one save and three blown save chances against Philadelphia.  Par for the course, he hit the first batter that he faced, allowed a walk to Mike Sweeney, then third baseman Casey Blake booted a ground ball that allowed the winning run to reach first base. 

Carlos Ruiz knocked in that winning run in the game’s next at-bat with a shot that nearly cleared the center field wall.

The Dodgers now stand nine games back of the Padres in the National League West and can probably be counted out of the postseason barring a major collapse at the top of that division.  The Phillies, meanwhile, have won eight of their last 10 games to move within two games of the Braves in the National League East.

Maybe in October we’ll look back to Thursday, August 12, and say, “Hey, that’s when the Phillies got ignited.  And when the Dodgers took their last gasp of hope-filled air.”

Ryan Zimmerman’s spring training has been . . . weird

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Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman has played in exactly one Grapefruit league game this year, and that was way back on March 2. Since then he has been totally absent from the Nats’ big league spring games, playing instead on the back fields in sim games and in minor league contests.

While that’s not an unusual course of action for an injured or rehabbing player, both Zimmerman and the Nationals insist that there is nothing wrong with him. Per this report from MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, they’re saying that Zimmerman “simply prefers to get his work done in the more controlled environment of minor league games, where the rules are lax.” He doesn’t have to dive for balls, he can lead off every inning, etc. Manager Dave Martinez says Zimmerman simply doesn’t like the usual spring training grind and that this is working for him so he’s fine with it too.

Are you buyin’ that? Not sure I’m buyin’ that.

I suppose weirder things have happened. The Minnesota Twins once let Jack Morris go back to his farm in between starts rather than stay with the club. Other accommodations have been made for veterans, especially in spring training. But this is way more in keeping with a team hiding an injury. Though I have no idea why the Nats would choose to hide an injury to Zimmerman. They’ve talked at length about Daniel Murphy‘s knees and Adam Eaton‘s seemingly never-ending rehab. If Zimmerman has some aches and pains, you’d think they’d talk about it.

On the other hand, if this is a legit story and it is simply an accommodation for a veteran who doesn’t like the normal spring training grind, look for Zimmerman to be a trailblazer, because there are a LOT of dudes who hate spring training too and would love to change things up like this.