Dodgers collapse, Phillies prevail in a wild one

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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.”

Report: Tigers and J.D. Martinez agree to a two-year, $18.5 million deal

J.D. Martinez
Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images
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UPDATE: Jason Beck of MLB.com confirms that it’s a two-year, $18.5 million deal.

8:00 p.m. ET: Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the Tigers have avoided arbitration with outfielder J.D. Martinez by agreeing to a two-year contract. No word yet on the terms involved, but Robert Murray of Baseball Essential reported earlier today that he was hearing rumblings about a two-year, $18.5 million deal.

Martinez filed for $8 million and was offered $6 million by the Tigers when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. There has been some talk about a long-term extension, but we heard last week that the two sides were discussing both one- and two-year deals. This new deal will buy out Martinez’s final two years of arbitration, so as of now, he’s still on track to go into free agency after 2017.

After a breakout 2014, Martinez batted .282 with 38 home runs and an .879 OPS over 158 games last season.

Free agent reliever Eric O’Flaherty weighing interest from four teams

New York Mets pitcher Eric O'Flaherty throws against the Miami Marlins during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Miami, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015. The Mets defeated the Miami Marlins 8-6. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)
AP Photo/Joe Skipper
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Veteran reliever Eric O'Flaherty is coming off the worst season of his career, but there’s still plenty of interest in a bounceback, as ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that he’s deciding between four teams and “should sign a deal by the weekend.”

You really can’t sugarcoat O’Flaherty’s 2015. The 31-year-old was flat-out bad, posting an 8.41 ERA and 21/18 K/BB ratio over 30 innings of work between the Athletics and Mets. Opposing batters hit .343/.427/.482 against him. I keep going back to check if that’s a misprint, but nope, it’s real. He also missed some time with shoulder inflammation. On the bright side, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported last month that O’Flaherty feels healthy and believes that he has fixed his mechanics.

O’Flaherty’s career has veered off track since Tommy John surgery in 2013, but he has enjoyed plenty of success in the past and throws from the left side. He’s the kind of guy who will continue to get chances.

Mets sign outfielder Roger Bernadina

Cincinnati Reds v Arizona Diamondbacks
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Veteran outfielder Roger Bernadina has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mets that includes an invitation to spring training.

Bernadina was a semi-regular for the Nationals from 2010-2012, but never developed as much as hoped offensively and didn’t play in the majors at all last season.

At age 32 he’s a career .236 hitter with a .661 OPS in 548 games as a big leaguer and given the Mets’ outfield depth–they already have Alejandro De Aza and Juan Lagares in bench/part-time roles–Bernadina seems likely to begin the season in the minors.

J.R. Graham is in The Best Shape of his Life

Minnesota Twins starting pitcher J.R. Graham celebrates after the final out as the Twins beat the Chicago White Sox 12-2 in  a baseball game, Thursday, April 30, 2015, in Minneapolis. The Twins won 12-2. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
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Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com reports that Twins reliever J.R. Graham has lost “roughly 30-40 pounds this offseason.” It’s not a result of workouts, though. Just a change in diet. Bollinger says that Graham cut out sugar, alcohol and foods heavy in carbs and focused on a high-protein diet with lots of salads, meats and vegetables.

That’s an awful lot of weight to lose in four months, but the dude is only 26 and guys in their 20s lose weight just by thinking about it. Which is so very annoying to those of us who aren’t guys in their 20s.

The real test, of course, will come when he is working out far more strenuously once spring training starts and gets into the season. Normal schmos like me can keep up that kind of diet without much of a hitch as long as we have the willpower. An athlete’s energy requirements are far greater and far more specialized, so he’ll need more fuel than he’s probably been getting this offseason. Word is, however, that professional sports teams have people on staff that, you know, have made monitoring that kind of thing their life’s work.

In the meantime:

“I can just feel the change,” Graham said. “The energy. Everything. I feel great. I’m excited to see how it’ll translate into spring. I know I shouldn’t have any problems because I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I’m faster. All that. So it’s really exciting.”

It’s very exciting indeed. Because, with that, Graham becomes the latest baseball player to be . . . In The Best Shape of His Life.