Hey, look at that: Ryan Madson thriving as the Phillies’ closer

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Last month when Jose Contreras joined Brad Lidge on the disabled list I wrote that it may actually be a semi-positive thing for the Phillies because the injuries gave Ryan Madson a chance to prove that he can be a standout closer.

Far too many Phillies fans had convinced themselves that Madson couldn’t possibly get the job done in the ninth inning because he’s struggled in a few brief closing stints in previous seasons, but my point was simple: Madson has been one of the best, most underrated setup men in baseball since 2007 and there’s nothing magical about the ninth inning.

Here’s a sample of some comments left here at the time:

– God I hate when the stat geeks pontificate about the save stat being meaningless, even when they have the proof right in front of their eyes. I mean, isn’t that what you guys are always spouting to the world … don’t believe what you see, believe the stats??? So if Madson blows an early save or two, or three or however many, that wouldn’t be enough to prove to you guys that he isn’t closer material??? I mean, you boys can’t have your cake and eat it too.

– If Madson is as good as you say he is, then he should not be a different pitcher when he closes. Yet he is. Why? Maybe, and I know, this is just an insane thought, but maybe, just maybe, those last three outs are a little more difficult to get than you stat geeks think?

– Madson, on the other hand, wears his emotions on his sleeve and seems to be affected by the moment. I think he’s hard on himself and seems to lose a little confidence when he gets into some jams, more so in the 9th than when he does in the 8th.

– Have to disagree with you Aaron, I think it does take a special breed of pitcher. He has to forget yesterday and handle the increased pressure. Up to now Madson has not been able to do that.

There’s more where those came from, but you get the idea.

Closing is a role, not a skill. Getting hitters out is a skill and Madson is very good at it, thus when given an extended chance to get established he’s very good at pitching the ninth inning with a lead of 1-3 runs. After closing out last night’s 2-1 win by striking out the side in the ninth inning Madson is 7-for-7 converting save opportunities with a 0.53 ERA, .167 opponents’ batting average, and 22 strikeouts in 17 innings.

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights.

Pirates 4, Brewers 2; Orioles 9, Rangers 7: I’ve been doing these recaps for ten seasons now. In each of those ten seasons I get to a point when, due to the repetitiveness of it all, my brain starts to play tricks on me. Usually it’s around now — late July and into August. There are a lot of different tricks, but one of the recurring ones is believing that the Pirates and Brewers play each other every single night for, like, two months running, and that the Orioles and Rangers play each other about 40-50 times a year. I know, intellectually, that this is not true, but if you strapped me to a machine that reads deeply held beliefs, rooted in one’s soul, it would swear this to be the case.

Anyway, Jameson Taillon outdueled Jimmy Nelson as the Pirates sweep the staggering Brewers, reducing Milwaukee’s lead in the Central to a single game over Chicago. In Baltimore Jonathan Schoop and Adam Jones both homered and drove in three runs to help the O’s overcome a five-run deficit to sweep the Rangers. After brief series against other teams, Milwaukee will face Pittsburgh 37 more times and the O’s and Rangers will play each other . . . forever.

Mets 3, Cardinals 2: The game was tied 2-2 in the ninth and the Mets had runners on the corners with two outs. Trevor Rosenthal was on the mound for the Cards. Jose Reyes was at the plate and hit the ball down the first base line. Matt Carpenter fielded it but Rosenthal didn’t cover first base, allowing Reyes to reach safely and allowing Yoenis Cespedes to score from third, ending the game. There’s a reason pitchers spend hours and hours each spring on fielding practice. Not to get the mechanics right so much as to drill the process into them so as to make it as automatic and nearly as instinctual as possible. I guess spring was a long time ago.

Diamondbacks 12, Reds 2: Jake Lamb hit two homers — both three-run shots — and Gregor Blanco and Ketel Marte each hit two-run homers. Patrick Corbin made an emergency start, getting moved up a day, due to Taijuan Walker having to bolt for paternity leave. Didn’t matter, as Corbin allowed one run on seven hits and pitched into the eighth inning. The Reds have lost six of seven since the All-Star break and have given up 58 runs in those six losses.

Blue Jays 8, Red Sox 6: Boston jumped out to a 4-0 lead but the Jays rallied for four in the third to tie it. Brock Holt losing a Steve Pearce pop fly in the sun, allowing two runs helped. They ruled that a single, by the way, even though the ball clanked off Holt’s glove. Just one of many reasons to not look at errors or fielding percentage as a defensive metric: no one, apparently, makes errors anymore. The overall effort was helped by Justin Smoak hitting two homers. But this may have been my favorite play:

Royals 16, Tigers 4: Well, some players make errors. The Tigers were charged with three in this game. Not that it mattered as the Royals scored 13 earned runs to go on top of the three unearned ones they got. Brandon Moss drove in four, Mike Moustakas knocked in three and the Royals rattled off 19 hits in all. Kansas City has moved to within one and a half games of the Indians.

Yankees 4, Mariners 1: Luis Severino was fantastic, scattering eight hits over seven shutout innings. He was backed by a Brett Gardner homer and an RBI single from Aaron Judge. Three of the Yankees’ four runs were unearned, with two coming on a Robinson Cano throwing error. What was the secret to Severino’s outing? “”I just tried to bring my A stuff, tried to make pitches, tried to get hitters out.” No word on if he executed them as well.

Braves 6, Dodgers 3: The Dodgers’ 11-game winning streak comes to an end as Mike Foltynewicz allowed three runs on six hits in six and a third innings, striking out five. Freddie Freeman and Kurt Suzuki each knocked in two runs for Atlanta.

Padres 5, Giants 2Jhoulys Chacin and Madison Bumgarner, had each allowed a couple of runs by the seventh, but Cory Spangenberg hit a two-run homer off of the Giants’ ace to break the tie. Hunter Renfroe hit a two-run homer as well as Bumgarner lost in his first home start since coming back from the disabled list. The Giants are 0-6 in his starts this year. He’s gotten ten runs of support in those games.

Dodgers designate Sergio Romo for assignment

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The Dodgers announced on Thursday that the club activated pitcher Grant Dayton from the 10-day disabled list and designated pitcher Sergio Romo for assignment.

Dayton, 29, went on the disabled list earlier this month with neck stiffness. He’ll resume with a 3.63 ERA and a 20/12 K/BB ratio in 22 1/3 innings.

Romo, 34, signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Dodgers in February. It didn’t really work out, as the right-hander posted a 6.12 ERA with a 31/12 K/BB ratio in 25 innings. His peripherals are still decent, so it wouldn’t be surprising if a team in need of a bullpen arm makes a deal with the Dodgers within the week.