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.   

Josh Hamilton has knee surgery, out 2-3 months

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 24:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers in the dugout before a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 24, 2015 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
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Josh Hamilton is not and never was a key part of the 2017 Texas Rangers plans. He was in camp and under contract and had at least a chance to make the team, but the Rangers fate as a ballclub did not depend on him. It would merely be nice for them if he revealed that he had a bit left in the tank and if he could, like a lot of other superstars in baseball history, give them one last season of decent production in part time play as a matter of depth and flexibility.

As such, this development is more unfortunate for Josh Hamilton and those who root for him than it is for the Rangers as a club, but it is unfortunate all the same:

That’s the fourth surgery he’s had on that knee in less than two years and the 11th knee surgery he’s had overall in his baseball career. It’s sad to say but safe to say that Hamilton’s days in baseball are numbered if not over completely. At some point an athlete’s body can only take so much.

Reid Brignac is trying to become a switch hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.