NLDS Game 4 Live Blog: Phillies vs. Cardinals

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8:42pm: Jay makes a sliding catch in center field to end it. Cards win, 5-3. This series will come down to Game 5, Friday in Philadelphia. Chris Carpenter vs. Roy Halladay. You couldn’t ask for much better.

8:40pm: Motte blows a 98 mph heater past Ibanez’s late swing for the second out of the inning.

8:38pm: Motte falls to a 3-0 count on Victorino, then fires two straight strikes and induces a groundout.

8:36pm: Jason Motte and his beard are on for the save. He’ll face Victorino, Ibanez, then Polanco.

8:33pm: And down goes Holliday. To the ninth inning we go. The Phillies have three outs to get two runs.

8:32pm: Berkman also retired by Lidge.

8:31pm: Brad Lidge enters and retires Pujols. The Cards are looking for insurance runs.

8:28pm: Howard, a hero in Game 1’s 11-6 win, has no hits in his last 11 at-bats. Discuss.

8:26pm: “Scrabble” fans Howard. The Cards will bat in the bottom of the eighth with a two-run lead.

8:22pm: Pence grounds out to shortstop. The Cardinals will bring in left-hander Marc Rzepczynski to face Howard. Two outs, Utley is at second base. This feels like a big opportunity for the Phils.

8:21pm: Pinch-runner Michael Martinez cruises home as a ball gets past Molina. Cards 5, Phillies 3.

8:20pm: Cliff Lee and Brad Lidge have begun warming up in the Phillies’ bullpen.

8:18pm: Rollins grounds out, but Utley reaches base when his lightly-struck ball bounces high off the first base bag. The Phillies have runners at first and third with one out, trailing by three runs.

8:14pm: Hernandez calls a balk on Cardinals reliever Fernando Salas, who entered at the start of the inning.

8:12pm: Ross Gload pinch-hits for Blanton and slaps a leadoff single to right field. The Phillies are now at the top of their batting order with six outs to go in a 5-2 game. In steps the hot-hitting Rollins.

8:10pm: Blanton turns in an easy, hitless frame. To the top of the eighth inning we go.

8:05pm: Joe Blanton enters in relief of Oswalt, who surrendered five earned runs on six hits.

8:04pm: Dotel induces a groundout from the struggling Polanco before getting Carlos Ruiz to fly out. The Cardinals still hold a 5-2 lead as Game 4 of the NLDS heads to the bottom of the seventh inning.

7:58pm: Rhodes fans Ibanez then exits for Octavio Dotel. The Phillies have eight outs to mount a comeback.

7:56pm: Jackson is out, and Cardinals left-hander Arthur Rhodes is in. Freese has also been removed in favor of the more defensively-adept Daniel Descalso. Tony La Russa loves his double switches.

7:52pm: Holliday hits a one-out single up the middle, then Freese — who grew up in the St. Louis suburbs — smashes a two-run bomb to straightaway center. It’s 5-2 Cardinals. The crowd is going wild.

7:50pm: Word from TBS’ Craig Sager is that Schumaker has been diagnosed with “hamstring cramps.”

7:47pm: MLB.com has video of the squirrel crossing for those of you not in front of a television.

7:43pm: Victorino grounds out to Theriot. E-Jax did a fine job of damage control. The Cardinals lead by a score of 3-2 and will send Berkman, Holliday and Molina to the plate in the bottom of the sixth.

7:42pm: Howard flies out to center field. Two down in the top of the sixth inning.

7:37pm: Impressive play by Pujols, who came off first base to nail Utley as he was trying to advance to third on a groundout by Pence. But Pence is on first base with just one out in the frame. Howard’s up.

7:33pm: E-Jax delivers a leadoff walk to Utley. The Phillies might have something going with the heart of their order coming up. It’ll be Pence, then Howard, then Victorino here in the top of the sixth.

7:31pm: Ryan Theriot has entered the game in place of Schumaker, who appeared to grab at his hamstring following an awkward fifth-inning swing. Theriot will bat second and play second base.

7:29pm: Schumaker flies out anyway, and Pujols does the same. No squirrel controversy. Darn.

7:26pm: A squirrel just ran right in front of home plate as Oswalt was delivering a pitch — called a ball — to Schumaker. It may or may not be the same squirrel that was hanging around the field during Tuesday’s Game 3. Oswalt wants a do-over on the pitch, but home plate umpire Angel Hernandez is having none of it.

7:23pm: Furcal pops out on a first-pitch bunt attempt.

7:22pm: E-Jax escapes the danger. The Cards still lead 3-2 as we move along to bottom of the fifth.

7:19pm: Placido Polanco leads off the fifth inning with a single to left. He’s now 2-for-14 in this series.

7:12pm: The Cards strand Freese at third, but now hold a one-run lead as this one heads to the fifth.

7:08pm: Pence tracks down a hard-hit ball to right field from Molina, but David Freese laces a two-run double into the left field corner one batter later. The Cards have a 3-2 lead and a rocking Busch Stadium.

7:06pm: Berkman draws a leadoff walk and Holliday takes a pitch off his right arm. The Cardinals have life here in the bottom of the fourth. Yadier Molina steps to the dish to chants of “Ya-di, Ya-di, Ya-di.”

7:02pm: Ryan Howard fans in a three-pitch at-bat, Victorino grounds to short, then Raul Ibanez flies out to left. Jackson certainly looks sharper than he did in the first inning. But can the Cards break through?

6:56pm: Schumaker moves to 2-for-2 on the day with a two-out single, but Oswalt gets Pujols to chase a low-and-outside third strike. The Phillies still lead the Cardinals 2-1 as we head to the fourth inning.

6:47pm: Rollins, who is now 9-for-14 with six runs scored in this five-game series, managed a one-out infield single in the top of the third. But Jackson and the Cards were able to stymie the minor threat.

6:41pm: Here’s a .GIF snapshot of Victorino’s first-inning stumble. The outfield grass at Busch Stadium has struggled to recover from a July U2 concert. Blame it on Bono and The Edge, Phillies fans.

6:39pm: Oswalt had the Cardinals off balance in the bottom of the second for a quick 1-2-3 frame. It looks like both starters might be settling in. The Phillies still lead the game 2-1 heading to the third.

6:33pm: E-Jax begins featuring more breaking balls in the second and comes away with better results, retiring three batters in order — two via punch-out. The Cardinals will bat trailing by a run.

6:26pm: Lance Berkman hits a run-scoring extra-base hit to the right-center field gap, advancing to third base when Shane Victorino stumbles while trying to throw the ball back to the infield. Holliday follows with a groundout to Rollins. Phillies 2, Cardinals 1. Heading to the top of the second inning.

6:24pm: Pujols pops up after a lengthy at-bat.

6:21pm: Cardinals leadoff man Rafael Furcal goes down swinging, then Skip Schumaker smacks a one-out single to left field. Albert Pujols steps in against Roy Oswalt with a duck on the pond.

6:16pm: A strike ’em out, throw ’em out helps the Cardinals get out of the jam. To the bottom of the first we go, with Philadelphia leading St. Louis in Game 4 by a score of 2-0.

6:13pm: Edwin Jackson averaged 94.5 mph on his fastball this year. For reference, Justin Verlander averaged 95 mph. But E-Jax doesn’t locate like Verlander, and often trusts his fastball too much.

6:11pm: Just like that, the Phillies are up 2-0. Chase Utley follows Rollins’ leadoff double with a triple down the right field line, then Hunter Pence hits a run-scoring single to left-center field.

6:09pm: The sun plays a role on the first pitch of the game, as Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay fails to get a good read on Jimmy Rollins’ warning-track fly. Rollins is standing on second base with no outs.

6:05pm: In the interest of full disclosure, I think I should divulge that I was raised in and still reside in St. Louis. So I’m a Cardinals fan. But a pessimistic one. If you sense bias, yell at me in the comments.

6:01pm: Welcome aboard. Thanks for stopping by and hanging out. Or just for stopping by. If you’re busy, you’re busy. We’ll do updates (bottom-to-top) every couple minutes. I can’t guarantee they’ll be entertaining or informative updates, but they’ll be updates. Like, with words and everything. And punctuation, at times.

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Below are the starting lineups for Game 4 of the NLDS between the Phillies and Cardinals, set to get underway just after 6 p.m. ET in St. Louis.

The Phillies took a 2-1 series lead on Tuesday night courtesy of a 3-2 win and can wrap things up with a victory this evening at Busch Stadium.

Ibanez is back in Philadelphia’s starting lineup after riding the pine Tuesday against Cardinals left-hander Jaime Garcia. And left fielder Matt Holliday is back in action for the Redbirds despite lingering tendon issues in his right middle finger.

 PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES           ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
1. Jimmy Rollins, SS            1. Rafael Furcal, SS
2. Chase Utley, 2B              2. Skip Schumaker, 2B
3. Hunter Pence, RF             3. Albert Pujols, 1B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B              4. Lance Berkman, RF
5. Shane Victorino, CF          5. Matt Holliday, LF
6. Raul Ibanez, LF              6. Yadier Molina, C
7. Placido Polanco, 3B          7. David Freese, 3B
8. Carlos Ruiz, C               8. Jon Jay, CF
9. Roy Oswalt, RHP              9. Edwin Jackson, RHP

It should be another exciting matchup. Follow along here on our NLDS Game 4 Live Blog.

The Cubs are in desperate need of relief

Associated Press
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Tonight in Chicago Yu Darvish of the Dodgers will face off against Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs. If this were Game 1, we’d have a lot to say about the Dodgers’ trade deadline pickup and the Cubs’ budding ace. If this series continues on the way it’s been going, however, each of them will be footnotes because it has been all about the bullpens.

The Cubs, you may have heard, are having tremendous problems with relief pitching. Both their own and with the opposition’s. Cubs relievers have a 7.03 ERA this postseason, and have allowed six runs on eight hits and have walked six batters in seven innings of work. And no, the relief struggles aren’t just a matter of Joe Maddon pushing the wrong buttons (even though, yeah, he has pushed the wrong buttons).

Maddon pushed Wade Davis for 44 pitches in Game 5 of the NLDS, limiting his availability in Games 1 and 2. That pushing is a result of a lack of relief depth on the Cubs. Brian Duensing, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. all have talent and all have had their moments, but none of them are the sort of relievers we have come to see in the past few postseasons. The guys who, when your starter tosses 80 pitches in four innings like Jon Lester did the other night, can be relied upon to shut down the opposition for three and a half more until your lights-out closer can get the four-out save.

In contrast, the Dodgers bullpen has been dominant, tossing eight scoreless innings. Indeed, Dodgers relievers have tossed eight almost perfect innings, allowing zero hits and zero walks while striking out nine Cubs batters. The only imperfection came when Kenley Jansen hit Anthony Rizzo in Game 2. That’s it. Compare this to the past couple of postseasons where the only truly reliable arm down there was Jansen, and in which Dodgers managers have had to rely on Clayton Kershaw to come on in relief. That has not been a temptation at all as the revamped L.A. pen, featuring newcomers Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson. Suffice it to say, Joe Blanton is not missed.

Which brings us back to Kyle Hendricks. He has pitched twice this postseason, pitching seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the NLDS but getting touched for four runs on nine hits while allowing a couple of dingers in Game 5. If the good Hendricks shows up, Maddon will be able to ride him until late in the game in which a now-rested Davis and maybe either Strop or Edwards can close things out in conventional fashion, returning this series to competitiveness. If the bad Hendricks does, he’ll have to do what he did in that NLDS Game 5, using multiple relievers and, perhaps, a repurposed starter in relief while grinding Davis into dust again. That was lucky to work there and doing it without Davis didn’t work in Game 2 on Sunday night.

So it all falls to Hendricks. The Dodgers have shown how soft the underbelly of the Cubs pen truly is. If they get to Hendricks early and get into that pen, you have to like L.A’s chances, not just in this game, but for the rest of the series, as bullpen wear-and-tear builds up quickly. It’s pretty simple: Hendricks has to give the Cubs some innings tonight. There is no other option available.

Just ask Joe Maddon. He’s tried.