Matt Cain shuts down Phillies as Giants take 2-1 lead in NLCS

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Philadelphia scored the second-most runs in the NL during the regular season, averaged 4.4 runs through five playoffs games, and hadn’t been shut out since August, but the Phillies’ lineup managed just three singles and three walks while being blanked by Matt Cain, Javier Lopez, and Brian Wilson in Game 3 of the NLCS.

Cain struggled at times with his command, throwing first-pitch strikes to just 15 of 28 batters, plunking two hitters in addition to handing out three walks, and finding the strike zone with just 69 of his 119 offerings overall, but the Phillies simply couldn’t put together many damage-inducing swings.

Charlie Manuel shifted his lineup to insert Placido Polanco between Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in an effort to make life tougher on side-arming left-handed specialist Javier Lopez in the late innings, but Lopez needed just nine pitches to record three outs after relieving Cain and Brian Wilson pitched around Jimmy Rollins’ wall-banging single to close out the 3-0 win.

Cody Ross once again played a big role for the Giants, knocking in the game’s first run with a sharp single to left field in the fourth inning. That proved to be all the support Cain, Lopez, and Wilson needed and Ross is now 8-for-23 (.348) with four homers and seven RBIs in seven playoff games. Not bad for a guy the Giants ended up in August with after putting in a waiver claim primarily to block the Padres from doing the same.

Obviously his postseason production is unexpected, but Ross hasn’t quite come out of nowhere. In five seasons as a regular he’s averaged 24 homers per 550 at-bats and his Isolated Power–which is slugging percentage minus batting average–of .203 during that span ranks right up there with some pretty big names like Vladimir Guerrero (.207), Brian McCann (.206), Troy Tulowitzki (.205), Torii Hunter (.202), Derrek Lee (.200), and Andre Ethier (.200).

Ross doesn’t have much plate discipline or strike-zone control and hits for low batting averages, so he hasn’t developed into anything more than an average corner outfielder, but as the Braves and Phillies have learned the guy has always had plenty of power and he’s even produced a 4/3 K/BB ratio so far in the playoffs.

Bruce Bochy has made it very clear all along that rookie Madison Bumgarner will be the Giants’ starter in Game 4 and Manuel wasted no time confirming that he’ll stick with Joe Blanton tomorrow night despite being down 2-1 in the series. Manuel was no doubt tempted to bring back Roy Halladay on short rest, but that would also have involved doing the same with Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. Plus, with The Big Three now waiting in the wings to start Games 5-7 on full rest it’s not quite a “must-win” situation for Blanton.

Obviously he’d love to continue leaning exclusively on Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels, but having them at full strength will give the Phillies a chance to win the series regardless of what happens in Game 4 and Blanton quietly had a very strong second half in their collective shadow. He went 6-1 with a 3.29 ERA and 75/21 K/BB ratio in 14 starts after the All-Star break and if he can out-duel Bumgarner the Phillies will suddenly be back in the driver’s seat with The Big Three lined up for what would essentially be a three-game series.

Of course, Bumgarner had a 1.18 ERA and 34/7 K/BB ratio in his final six regular season starts and beat the Braves with six innings of two-run ball in the NLDS, so the Giants are a good outing by their young southpaw away from making every game a “must-win” for the Phillies.

Cameron Rupp, who criticized Odubel Herrera for bat-flipping, flipped his bat on a home run

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Earlier, Craig wrote about the negative reaction within the Phillies’ clubhouse after outfielder Odubel Herrera A) flipped his bat on a fly out, and B) failing to run out a dropped third strike. Manager Pete Mackanin was one of Herrera’s critics, unsurprisingly, but so was catcher Cameron Rupp.

Via the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Matt Gelb, Rupp said that the Phillies’ frustration with Herrera is “not a secret.” He said, “Pete is the manager and what he asks us to do, we’re supposed to do. It’s a team thing and one guy can’t just not follow the rules. It’s not the first time. It has happened before and that’s something we don’t want to see. We want him in the game. He’s a good player. It’s hard for us. He’s a grown man. He has to learn on his own. We can only say so much.”

Though Rupp didn’t directly say his criticism of Herrera pertained to bat flips, we can logically deduce it as such. Herrera doesn’t commonly fail to run out dropped third strikes, but he does commonly flip his bat, particularly on non-homers.

Rupp had a good game against the Astros on Wednesday night, blasting a pair of two-run home runs. The problem? Rupp flipped his bat. In a 9-0 game.

The MLB.com video doesn’t really give a chance to see the full extent of Rupp’s flip, so here’s a .gif from Chris Jones:

And just in case anyone feels I’m interpreting the situation through a biased lens, Phillies beat writer Ryan Lawrence of The Philly Voice also saw it the same way.

We should probably expect Mackanin to bench Rupp for the next two games like he did Herrera, right? What’s that, you say? Certain players were more likely to be criticized for expressing emotion and perceived lack of hustle? Really makes you think.

Nationals to promote top pitching prospect Erick Fedde

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Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Nationals will call up top pitching prospect Erick Fedde to start in place of Stephen Strasburg on Saturday. Strasburg left Sunday’s start against the Diamondbacks due to “some nerve impingement.”

Fedde, 24, was the Nationals’ first-round selection (18th overall) in the 2014 draft. The right-hander is the No. 3 prospect in the Nationals’ system, according to MLB Pipeline. Between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse, Fedde has a 3.72 ERA with a 69/21 K/BB ratio in 77 1/3 innings.

The Nationals still seem hopeful that Strasburg won’t need a stint on the disabled list. Saturday, of course, will mark five games since his last start which happens to be half of the minimum disabled list stint. The Nationals could always DL him retroactive to Monday. (Update: The Nationals will indeed place Strasburg on the DL, per MLB.com’s Jamal Collier.)