Toronto Blue Jays v St. Louis Cardinals

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.

Angels’ Pujols has foot surgery, could be sidelined 4 months

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols had surgery on his right foot Friday, possibly sidelining him past opening day.

Angels general manager Billy Eppler said Pujols had the procedure Friday in North Carolina to release his plantar fascia, the ligament connecting the heel to the toes. The three-time NL MVP was bothered by plantar fasciitis repeatedly during the season, but played through the pain in arguably the strongest year of his half-decade with the Angels.

Eppler said the surgery typically prevents players from participating in baseball activities for three months, along with another month before they’re ready to resume playing in games. Opening day for Los Angeles is April 3, and the Angels hope Pujols can be ready.

“He’s at that point in his career where he’s keenly aware of what’s happening with his body,” Eppler said in a phone interview. “I don’t put the timetable on Albert like you would with your younger players. We’ll just see in Albert’s case, as he progresses, what his timetable is.”

Pujols, who turns 37 next month, batted .268 last year with 31 homers and 119 RBIs, the fourth-most in the majors – although his .780 OPS was among the worst of his career. He largely served as a designated hitter instead of playing first base due to problems with his hamstrings and feet.

Pujols heads into 2017 with 591 career homers, ranking him ninth in major league history. He is 18 homers behind Sammy Sosa for eighth place.

After playing in pain until the final week of the Angels’ disappointing season, Pujols began shock wave therapy on his foot early in the offseason, believing he wouldn’t need surgery.

But Pujols’ foot became more painful in recent weeks despite the therapy, and he huddled with the Angels’ top brass to decide on surgery after his most recent trip to see Dr. Robert Anderson in North Carolina. Continuing with conservative care would have required 10 more weeks, forcing Pujols to miss the first half of the 2017 season if he still required surgery.

“He just felt that the pain had gotten to a point where he was comfortable” having surgery, Eppler said. “If we did delay it, you’re just looking at 2 1/2 more months into the season.”

Pujols had a different type of surgery on his right foot last winter, but recovered in time for opening day. He also had plantar fasciitis in his left foot during the 2013 season, eventually forcing him out for the year when his fascia snapped.

Pujols has five years and $140 million remaining on the 10-year, $240 million free-agent contract that pried him out of St. Louis, where he won two World Series and became a nine-time NL All-Star.

The Angels haven’t won a playoff game since Pujols’ arrival and Mike Trout‘s concurrent emergence as one of baseball’s best players. They went 74-88 last season, the injury-plagued club’s worst record since 1999.

Diamondbacks hire Mike Fitzgerald to head Research and Development department

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Mike Hazen, new Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Red Sox, addresses the media during a press conference to announce his promotion before the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park on September 24, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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According to an official announcement, the Diamondbacks have acquired former Pirates quantitative analyst Mike Fitzgerald as their new Director of Research and Development.

Fitzgerald joined the Pirates’ front office in 2012, where he frequently accompanied the team on the road to help breach the divide between analytics and the clubhouse. According to a profile written by Grantland’s Ben Lindbergh in 2014, Fitzgerald’s multifaceted approach brought balance and perspective to the organization, whether he was assisting coaches in making statistically sound decisions, optimizing the batting order, weighing in on scouting and personnel decisions, developing more effective defensive positioning, or keeping players and personnel appraised of the latest developments in sabermetrics.

In the wake of Fitzgerald’s departure, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington praised the Diamondbacks for a smart acquisition and said that the club has every intention of finding a replacement analyst, albeit one who will have some big shoes to fill.