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.”

What’s on Tap: Previewing Saturday’s action

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws a pitch in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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It’s the last Clayton Kershaw start of the regular season. Prepare yourselves accordingly.

The Dodgers already have the NL West in the bag, but they’re still fighting for home-field advantage against the Nationals. Should the two teams end up with the same regular season record by Monday morning, the edge will go to the Dodgers, who have a better head-to-head record this year. Kershaw has already been announced as the starter for Game 1 of the NLDS, while the Nationals have kept their lineup close to the vest for the time being.

Facing the Dodgers is Giants’ left-hander Ty Blach, who is poised to make the second major league start of his career this afternoon. The Giants are in a precarious position heading into the last two games of the year and have the potential to force a three-way tie among NL wild card contenders. A thorough breakdown of the wild card and home-field advantage possibilities has been outlined here.

You can find more from Saturday’s action below.

New York Mets (Bartolo Colon) @ Philadelphia Phillies (Phil Klein), 1:05 PM EDT

Pittsburgh Pirates (Chad Kuhl) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Michael Wacha), 1:05 PM EDT

Baltimore Orioles (Wade Miley) @ New York Yankees (Luis Severino), 4:05 PM EDT

Los Angeles Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw) @ San Francisco Giants (Ty Blach), 4:05 PM EDT

Miami Marlins (Wei-Yin Chen) @ Washington Nationals (Tanner Roark), 4:05 PM EDT

Chicago Cubs (Jon Lester) @ Cincinnati Reds (Tim Adleman), 4:10 PM EDT

Cleveland Indians (Trevor Bauer) @ Kansas City Royals (Edinson Volquez), 4:15 PM EDT

Detroit Tigers (Jordan Zimmerman) @ Atlanta Braves (Aaron Blair), 7:10 PM EDT

Minnesota Twins (Hector Santiago) @ Chicago White Sox (James Shields), 7:10 PM EDT

Toronto Blue Jays (J.A. Happ) @ Boston Red Sox (Eduardo Rodriguez), 7:10 PM EDT

Tampa Bay Rays (Jake Odorizzi) @ Texas Rangers (Colby Lewis), 8:05 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers (Wily Peralta) @ Colorado Rockies (Jeff Hoffman), 8:10 PM EDT

San Diego Padres (Clayton Richard) @ Arizona Diamondbacks (Archie Bradley), 8:10 PM EDT

Houston Astros (Collin McHugh) @ Los Angeles Angels (Tyler Skaggs), 9:05 PM EDT

Oakland Athletics (Jharel Cotton) @ Seattle Mariners (Hisashi Iwakuma), 9:10 PM EDT

Settling the Scores: Friday’s results

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30: Norichika Aoki #8 of the Seattle Mariners is congratulated by teammates in the dugout after hitting a solo home run off of starting pitcher Raul Alcantara #50 of the Oakland Athletics during the second inning of a game against the Oakland Athletics at Safeco Field on September 30, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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Raul Alcantara was in the business of distributing home runs on Friday night.

Robinson Cano caught the tail end of a 94.1 m.p.h. fastball in the first inning, driving it to center field to put the Mariners on the board. In the second, Norichika Aoka found his fourth home run of the year on a similarly-placed heater. The Mariners then targeted Alcantara’s off-speed stuff, picking on the right-hander’s changeup and slider to get two more home runs in the third: the first, another dead-center blast by Cano, and the last, a bomb by Nelson Cruz that popped off the center field wall and survived an umpire review.

Taijuan Walker, who enjoyed the spike in run support from his 3.6 average, was not immune to the home run bug either, giving up the first and only run of the night on Ryon Healy’s 102-m.p.h. home run in the sixth inning.

While Walker excelled at run prevention, he also came one walk shy of hitting a career-high mark, with five walks spread over six innings. Seattle’s bullpen stepped in for three perfect innings to close out the game and, despite six perfect frames from Oakland relievers Zach Neal and Daniel Coulombe, quashed the A’s hopes of closing a four-run gap.

The Mariners’ win on Friday puts them one game back of the wild card; if they take the rest of the series and the Tigers and Blue Jays lose one of their remaining weekend games, the Mariners will tie for the remaining wild card spot. With Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez on the hill this weekend, winning shouldn’t be an issue. Getting the Blue Jays to collapse against the Red Sox (and, to a lesser extent, the Tigers against the Braves) is another story.

Here are the rest of the box scores from Friday’s games. Keep an eye out for the first modest bat flip of Jose Bautista‘s career, Madison Bumgarner‘s eighth RBI of the year, and the Orioles’ three-homer inning.

Orioles 8, Yankees 1

Marlins 7, Nationals 4

Mets 5, Phillies 1

Cubs 7, Reds 3

Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 3

Tigers 6, Braves 2

Rangers 3, Rays 1

Rockies 4, Brewers 1

White Sox 7, Twins 3

Indians 7, Royals 2

Cardinals 7, Pirates 0

Diamondbacks 5, Padres 3

Angels 7, Astros 1

Mariners 5, Athletics 1

Giants 9, Dodgers 3