Charlie Manuel makes plea for a right-handed hitter

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At 47-28, the Philadelphia Phillies have the best record in baseball.

They allow an MLB-best 3.2 runs per game, and trail only the Yankees and Red Sox in run differential.

But this team could be better, and Charlie Manuel knows it.

The Phillies manager is making a rather public plea for help for his lineup, and a solid right-handed hitter tops his wish list, according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.

“We could use a hitter in our lineup,” he said Wednesday afternoon at Busch Stadium. “At least one. We could definitely use a solid right-handed hitter.”

If the Phillies were to add a right-handed hitter, he would ideally be able to pick up some at-bats in the No. 5 spot in the batting order. Phillies’ No. 5 hitters are batting just .207 with a .609 on-base plus slugging percentage.

In fairness, Placido Polanco is a good hitter (though he has no power), Carlos Ruiz is serviceable enough at catcher (you’ve got to love the .370 OBP), and Shane Victorino is a switch-hitter who destroys left-handers (.362/.464/.787).

Also, the Phillies are 15-6 against left-handers this season, so it’s not like they’re helpless from the right side. What Manuel really should have said was this: “I really miss Jayson Werth. Without Jayson, we don’t have anyone with a sweet beard who can put the fear of God into a left-handed pitcher.”

Of course, Werth is hitting .172/.313/.344 against southpaws this season, so never mind.

The bigger issue here, as far as the Phillies are concerned, is money. Their payroll for 2011 is at $175 million, the second-highest in baseball and just $3 million shy of the luxury tax threshold. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of wiggle room, and Phillies GM Ruben Amaro is already on record as saying “you will not see a major move this year.”

Salisbury reports that Oakland’s Josh Willingham interests the Phillies, and San Diego’s Ryan Ludwick, Kansas City’s Wilson Betemit, and Colorado’s Ryan Spilborghs are also possibilities. Of course, even Manuel admits that the money issue could be “a huge problem.”

Still, it never hurts to ask. After all, Manuel asked for a pitcher last season and ended up with Roy Oswalt. Not too bad.

Shelby Miller left Sunday’s start with forearm tightness

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Diamondbacks pitcher Shelby Miller left Sunday’s start against the Dodgers after four-plus innings due to tightness in his right forearm, the team announced. He’ll be reevaluated tomorrow. Needless to say, though, a forearm injury is very concerning. In his four innings, Miller gave up three runs on four hits and five walks with three strikeouts, raising his ERA to 4.09.

Miller, 26, has had a nightmare of a time since joining the Diamondbacks in December 2015. Last year, he made 20 starts and posted a 6.15 ERA. He suffered a finger injury suffered from scraping his hand on the pitcher’s mound with his follow-through, and he was also demoted to Triple-A during the summer as well.

Ivan Nova finally issued his first walk. It was to an AL pitcher taking his first major league at-bat.

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Pirates starter Ivan Nova has been outstanding in his first three starts of the 2017 season. He yielded only five earned runs in 20 innings for a tidy 2.25 ERA. But even more impressively, Nova didn’t issue a walk in any of those starts.

That changed on Sunday afternoon against the Yankees, but in a most peculiar way. Nova had struck out the side in the first inning, notched a 1-2-3 frame in the second, and got two quick ground outs to begin the third inning, bringing up Yankees pitcher Jordan Montgomery for his first major league at-bat. Montgomery never batted in the minor leagues, either, so Sunday’s AB against Nova was his first since his senior year of high school in 2011. Montgomery took the first two pitches for balls, then a called strike, a ball, and another called strike to even the count. Nova came in with his sixth consecutive fastball but it missed low, walking the Yankees’ pitcher for his first free pass of the 2017 season.

Nova got out of the inning without any further issue. He wound up going seven innings, giving up a lone run on four hits and a walk with seven strikeouts, lowering his ERA to an even 2.00.