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.   

Diamondbacks name Dan Haren as pitching strategist

PHOENIX - APRIL 05:  Starting pitcher Dan Haren #15 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches against the San Diego Padres during the Opening Day major league baseball game at Chase Field on April 5, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Diamondbacks defeated the Padres 6-3.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Diamondbacks announced on Tuesday afternoon that former major leaguer Dan Haren has been named the organization’s new pitching strategist. The role will include working with the front office, the major league coaching staff, and the analytics department.

Haren, 36, ended his 13-year playing career after the 2015 season. He finished with a 153-131 record and a 3.75 ERA across 2,419 2/3 innings.

Since retiring, Haren has been one of the more enjoyable players to follow on Twitter. He promised to teach his disciples how to tweet as part of his new responsibilities.

Pablo Sandoval is in the best shape of his life

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For a guy who won a World Series MVP Award and has been to a couple of All-Star Games, it’s amazing how many stories have been written about Pablo Sandoval‘s off-the-field exploits compared to his on-the-field exploits. Specifically, stories about his conditioning. Or lack of conditioning. Of him getting into shape, falling out of shape and getting back into shape again. It’s been this way since he emerged as an everyday player in 2009.

And it continues anew:

There is no claim here that Sandoval is, in fact, in The Best Shape of His Life. However, longtime BSOHL fans know that the claim is not about the magic words being used. The idea is that, in the offseason, players with something to prove will routinely make an effort to create the impression that they are a new man. Often it is from claiming that one is in The Best Shape of His Life. Often it comes from surrogates talking about how many pounds of fat one has lost or pounds of pure muscle one has added. Sometimes — as here — it comes in the form of showing post-workout photos.

Whatever the purpose of the photo, Sandoval is certainly looking good compared to where he was last spring:

FORT MYERS, - MARCH 14: Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox makes the throw to first on the ground ball from Jason Rogers (not in photo) of the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fourth inning of the Spring Training Game on March 14, 2016 at Jet Blue Park at Fenway South, Florida. The Pirates defeated the Red Sox 3-1. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Or at the end of the 2015 season:

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 31: Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox warms up prior to the first inning against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park on August 31, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Red Sox won the game 4-3. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

Even if this is part of a plan to get Sandoval some good press heading into the 2017 season, I’m happy to see that he appears to be recovered from shoulder surgery and appears to be taking good care of himself and is thinking about his baseball futrue.

Either way, expect the Panda Weight Watch to continue at Red Sox spring training come February.