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.   

Report: Twins sign Erick Aybar to minor-league deal

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The Twins have reportedly signed free agent shortstop Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reported Friday. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman adds that the deal comes with a potential $1.25 million if Aybar reaches the majors, with additional incentives based on plate appearances. He’ll be able to opt out on March 27. The team has yet to confirm the signing.

Aybar, 34, is now four years removed from his career year in 2014. He’s been in a state of steady decline since then, slashing just .234/.300/.348 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases over 370 plate appearances for the Padres in 2017. His poor performance wasn’t helped by a fractured left foot, either, which cost him almost six weeks on the disabled list.

Still, the Twins see something promising in the veteran infielder, and reportedly intend to use him as another utility option this spring. Per Neal, Aybar will join fellow backup infielders Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza and may even (temporarily) take over for Miguel Sano at third base if Sano isn’t able to shape up for the role by Opening Day.