Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Oswalt walks off the field after Game 4 of their Major League Baseball NLCS playoff series in San Francisco

Are the Phillies choking, or are they just gettin’ beat?

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“I feel like we didn’t really lose. We just ran out of innings.”

Joe Blanton, always looking on the bright side of life.

That came from Jeff Passan’s postgame article over at Yahoo!  More interesting than Blanton’s take was Passan’s. After calling the use of Oswalt in relief desperate — and I kinda agree — he says this:

And that’s what the Phillies, an on-paper juggernaut, have turned into: a group clawing for any sign of life against a Giants team that against great odds is making Philadelphia look not just mortal but frightened . . . The Phillies look beat up and beat down. The Giants sterilized their bluster, thieved their momentum, made mortal the pitching deities who were supposed to slay them. After four games, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and now Oswalt all have losses. H20 looks more like H2No.

Yowza.

I’ll go with Jeff on the tone here — there is definitely a sense that the big Russian has been cut and doesn’t quite know what to do — but I think the take on the pitching is a bit off.  I don’t view Oswalt’s volunteering to pitch yesterday and subsequent failure to be his problem nearly as much as it was Charlie Manuel’s. If I were a manager I’d want any of my pitchers to want to go out in any game. It’d be up to me to tell them no, and Manuel didn’t do that.

More broadly speaking, the big three haven’t really failed here. Halladay didn’t have his best game in Game 1, but he pitched well enough. He made a couple of key mistakes and his offense didn’t help him out facing a pitcher just about as good as he is. Oswalt certainly did his job in Game 2. A team with Philly’s offensive tools shouldn’t be resigned to defeat simply because Cole Hamels gives up three runs. Matt Cain just whupped them.

I think Charlie’s moves were regrettable in Game 4, but ultimately, I view this as less as the Phillies choking or being frightened or running out of innings or however else it’s being described than them simply gettin’ beat. I’m not alone in this, by the way:

“They’re beating us.  It’s plain and simple. They are beating us right now.”

That’s Shane Victorino, saying pretty much all that needs to be said.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.