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.”

Phil Bickford suspended 50 games for drug of abuse

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10:  Phil Bickford of the U.S. Team pitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at PETCO Park on July 10, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.

Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.

Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.

Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):

We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.

Diamondbacks sign Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million deal

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 21:  Fernando Rodney #56 of the Miami Marlins pitches during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 21, 2016 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
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Confirming a report from Tuesday, the Diamondbacks officially signed right-hander Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million contract on Friday. The 39-year-old stands to receive up to $4 million in incentives, per Jack MacGruder of FanRag Sports, with $250,000 kicking in when the veteran reaches 40, 50 and 60 appearances and $500,000 if he reaches 70.

Rodney came three games shy of the 70-appearance mark in 2016 during back-to-back stints with the Padres and Marlins. He put up a cumulative 3.44 ERA on the year, which effectively disguised the extreme split during his performances in San Diego and Miami. The Diamondbacks aren’t anywhere close to contending in 2017, but Rodney should stabilize the back end of their bullpen while providing Arizona GM Mike Hazen with a potential trade chip during next year’s deadline.

Hazen issued a statement following the signing:

With Fernando, we’re getting an established Major League closer and a veteran presence in the bullpen. It is helpful to have someone with his experience on the back end to slow the game down and get the final three outs.