Ben Francisco

Ben Francisco powers Phillies to 2-1 lead over Cardinals in NLDS

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Ben Francisco delivered a three-run pinch-hit home run off Jaime Garcia in the top of the seventh inning while the bullpen survived two late rallies as the Phillies topped the Cardinals 3-2 in Game 3 of the NLDS.

We had ourselves a pretty compelling pitchers’ duel over the first six innings as Garcia and Cole Hamels traded zeroes. Garcia was much more efficient than Hamels, but the Cardinals couldn’t break through despite a number of opportunities.

It’s easy to say this now, since we know how the game ended, but the Cardinals had a prime opportunity to break through in the bottom of the sixth inning. Ryan Theriot, who was 4-for-5 on the day, moved into scoring position with two outs after a walk by Jon Jay, but La Russa elected to stick with Garcia instead of sending up a pinch-hitter. Garcia struck out swinging and proceeded to allow the three-run pinch-hit blast to Francisco in the next half inning. That’s baseball.

After some shaky relief work by Vance Worley, Antonio Bastardo and Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson came on to record a five-out save. He induced a huge double play ground ball with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth and gave up one run on two hits in the ninth. It was his first save of more than three outs this season.

On the brink of elimination, the Cardinals will send Edwin Jackson to the hill tomorrow night while Roy Oswalt starts for the Phillies.

Notes

– That home run by Ben Francisco? His first since May 25.

– As I said in the live blog, I hated the walk the intentional walk to Carlos Ruiz. It essentially gave Charlie Manuel the opportunity for the perfect matchup. Even if Tony La Russa brought in a right-hander to face Ben Francisco, we likely would have seen Raul Ibanez. Not saying Ibanez would have homered, but Manuel had the upper hand and the Phillies took advantage.

– Jaime Garcia allowed three runs on six hits over seven innings while striking out three and walking two. He retired the side in order in four out of the first five innings.

– Just to show you how little teams fear Ryan Howard against left-handed pitching, the Cardinals walked Hunter Pence with first base open and two outs in the top of the sixth inning in order to pitch to him.

– Cole Hamels struck out eight over six shutout innings, but he also gave up five hits, walked three and hit a batter. He was pulled after throwing 72 out of 117 pitches for strikes.

– Just when it looked like another major mistake by the umpires on the postseason stage, they finally got one right. After a catch by Skip Schumaker in the top of the ninth inning was originally ruled as a trap by Jerry Meals, the umpires huddled together and reversed the call. It likely would have been a double play if it was ruled as a catch from the get-go, but kudos, anyway.

– Ryan Theriot and Albert Pujols combined for eight of the Cardinals’ 12 hits on the day. Pujols went 4-for-5 with three doubles. This was his first career four-hit game in the postseason and his first with three doubles.

– The Cardinals had a total of 18 baserunners on the night, but only scored twice. They left 14 men on base.

Breaking Down the Today’s Game Hall of Fame Ballot: Lou Piniella

TORONTO - JULY 9:  Manager Lou Pinella of the Cincinnati Reds looks on during batting practice prior to the1991 All-Star Game at the Toronto Sky Dome on July 9, 1991 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
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On Monday, December 5, the Today’s Game committee of the Baseball Hall of Fame — the replacement for the Veterans Committee which covers the years 1988-2016 — will vote on candidates for the 2017 induction class. This week we are looking at the ten candidates, one-by-one, to assess their Hall worthiness. Next up: Lou Piniella

The case for his induction:

He notched 1,835 wins, made seven postseason appearances, a won a World Series as a manager. That win total is good for 14th all time. Of the 13 men ahead of him, 12 are already in the Hall. The only who isn’t is Gene Mauch, who was under .500 for his career. Connie Mack and Bucky Harris are in that crowd and they were under .500 too, but Mack is kind of a special case as the all-time wins leader and Harris, well, I dunno, he hung around forever and the Veterans Committee was a different beast back in the 1970s. Point is, if you have Piniella’s win total and you’re over .500, as Piniella is, you’re probably getting in, at least eventually.

A lot of those wins came in some good places and at some good times, adding some psychological weight to that record. Taking the 1990 Reds to the World Series and beating the heavily favored A’s was a great story and, as the Reds’ last title for 26 years and counting, stands as a more memorable accomplishment than doing it someplace else. Likewise, his next job, in Seattle, coincided with the franchise’s best seasons thanks to the emergence of Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson and Edgar Martinez under Piniella’s command. Mariners’ history fundamentally changed during the Piniella era and he will always be associated with that. Oh, and his 2001 team set the single season record for wins with 116. He made two playoff appearances with the Cubs too. That’s been eclipsed by the 2016 team’s exploits, but it was a pretty big deal at the time.

It’s also worth noting that Piniella likewise had a very fine playing career, with 18 seasons of 109 OPS+ hitting, a Rookie of the Year Award and a couple of World Series rings on his resume. That’s not enough by itself to get him in the Hall, but he presents a nice total package as a Baseball Man Supreme who has been thought highly of for close to 50 years now.

Oh, one other thing: he was colorful. He had a temper and a repuatation as kind of a red ass, with a good number of on-the-field incidents which stick in people’s minds. That sort of thing doesn’t necessarily make someone a good manager or a good person, but Piniella has been seen as a guy who mellowed with age and, at various times in his career, showed that he had a sense of humor about all of that stuff which makes it play a heck of a lot better. For Hall of Fame purposes, it certainly plays a heck of a lot more memorably.

The case against his induction:

His years in Tampa Bay weren’t all that great and, by the time his days in Chicago were over there was a sense that he was sort of running on fumes and padding that win total to get him into that top 14. In both places Joe Maddon eventually came along and did better things and, in some cases, undoing some bad things Piniella did. Some believe he should’ve won another pennant or two and, yes, some of those Mariners teams disappointed in the postseason. Some people look less amusingly on his temper tantrums over the years and, I suppose, one could characterize them a bit more sinisterly than I did above without being too dramatic.

Would I vote for him?

I think so. As I mentioned in the George Steinbrenner entry, when it comes to managers and executives, I put a lot of weight on whether one could tell the story of baseball in a guy’s era without mentioning his name. Piniella is no Joe Torre, Bobby Cox of Tony La Russa in that regard, but he’s pretty close to that group in terms of the figure he cut in the game and, as I mentioned, he’s critical to the story of a couple of franchises. Certainly the Mariners but also the 1970s Yankees as a player and, possibly, the 1990 Reds. I tend to be a softer Hall of Fame touch than a lot of people, so I get that people may disagree, but I’d put him in.

Will the Committee vote for him?

Hard to say. On the one hand, Piniella feels like the sort of baseball man that gets rewarded by the Veterans Committee. On the other hand, the Veterans Committee took ages to vote in some other notable managers such as Whitey Herzog, suggesting that maybe Piniella will have to wait. This is the first year for the new composition of the Veterans Committe, however, so it’s hard to say if they’ll be tougher or easier graders. He may be the hardest call of all of the guys on this year’s ballot.

Twins hire James Rowson as their hitting coach

BOSTON, MA - June 4: The Minnesota Twins logo is seen during the fifth inning of the game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on June 4, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
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The Minnesota Twins have announced that they have hired James Rowson as their hitting coach.

Rowson was the minor league hitting coordinator for the New York Yankees for seven of the last nine seasons, interrupted by a short stint with the Chicago Cubs as minor league hitting coordinator. He also worked at the minor league levels with the Los Angeles Angels. He played in the minors for the Seattle Mariners and Yankees.

Rowson replacesTom Brunansky, who was hitting coach for the past four seasons.