Phillies survive ninth-inning balk by Brad Lidge, win in extras

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Funny that I mentioned Jerry Hairston Jr. again before this entry, because he figured quite prominently in one of the key plays of last night’s eventual 3-2 loss to the Phillies in 12 innings.

Pinch-hitter Matt Stairs led off the ninth with a single and was quickly replaced by the aforementioned Hairston. David Eckstein followed with a sacrifice bunt and Miguel Tejada grounded out to third base for the first two outs of the inning. With first base open, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel then wisely chose to intentionally walk Adrian Gonzalez, however Lidge subsequently hit Ryan Ludwick to load the bases. Then, inexplicably, with Lidge ahead 2-2 on Chase Headley, Lidge balked to force in Hairston from third base, tying the game at 2-2 and ultimately sending the game into extra innings. I have to be honest, sometimes I see balks called and I can’t see a darn thing. This one was pretty blatantly obvious.

There was nothing doing on either side until the top of the 12th inning. Jimmy Rollins led off the inning with a double off Ernesto Frieri and came around to score on a single by Placido Polanco. It was actually a very strong throw by center fielder Luis Durango, but as you’ll see on the picture to your right, it took a fantastic slide by Rollins to beat it out.

Chad Durbin retired the Padres 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 12th to end this one. The thrilling win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Phillies and pulled them to within two games of the reeling Braves in the National League East. Fortunately for the Padres, the Giants also lost Friday, so they stay six games in front in the National League West.

Unfortunately, I didn’t even touch on the excellent outings by Roy Oswalt and Mat Latos, but this one had the legitimate feel of a playoff game. I wouldn’t mind if these two teams met up again in October.   

The Pirates are, not surprisingly, leaning against trading Andrew McCutchen

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Over the winter there was serious talk about the Pirates trading Andrew McCutchen to the Washington Nationals. His move to left field to allow Starling Marte to take over center further served to make McCutchen a less important part of the Pirates long term plans.

Then the season began, Marte got suspended for PEDs and, after a bumpy start, McCutchen caught fire. He hit .411/.505/.689 in June he has a .333/.444/.561 line in the month of July. For the year he’s now at .292/.384/.507 with 17 homers and 57 RBI. Even with Marte back on the roster, McCutchen is the Pirates’ center fielder. What’s more, the Pirates, after beginning the season slowly have righted the ship somewhat and are now only three games back in the NL Central.

All of which makes this, from Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, unsurprising:

That option is a quite reasonable $14.5 million, so it seems sorta crazy that they wouldn’t pick it up. Of course if they remain coy enough about it for now perhaps someone will bowl them over with an offer. Letting McCutchen walk seems insane. Unloading him for a hefty haul would, well, still be kinda crazy given how popular McCutchen is with the fan base, but not truly insane.

The Brewers are talking to the Tigers about Ian Kinsler, Justin Wilson

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The Brewers were rumored last week to have been “aggressive” in talks for Tigers reliever Justin Wilson. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports, however, that the talks are a bit more wide-ranging than that.

Crasnick says that the two clubs are also discussing Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, potentially in a package deal with Wilson. Crasnick says that the Brewers “would love to have Kinsler,” but their main focus at the moment is pitching help. Of course, the Brewers current second baseman — Jonathan Villar — is hitting a meager .223/.285/.348 in 334 plate appearances.

Kinsler is having a down season for him — .237/.331/.400 — but he’s better than that and, of course, would represent an improvement. He’s under contract through the end of this year but he has a very affordable, $10 million club option for 2018. Wilson will be arbitration-eligible this offseason, so he’s still under team control as well. As such a Kinsler/Wilson package would likely cost the Brewers a high price, so you have to think they’d try to exhaust cheaper options before making such a deal.

The Brewers had been in first place in the NL Central since June 7, but the Cubs caught them yesterday. They’re in a virtual tie, with Chicago percentage points ahead. This should prove to be a very interesting week for the Brewers’ front office.