Charlie Manuel wants the Phillies to upgrade over Placido Polanco at third base

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Placido Polanco is under contract for $6.25 million next season with a $5.5 million team option or $1 million buyout for 2013, but manager Charlie Manuel said yesterday that he’d like to see the Phillies find an upgrade at third base this offseason.

“If we need to upgrade and we can, we should do it,” Manuel told Nate Mink of MLB.com. “If we can stay healthy, it gets back to that being a key. Being healthy and being on the field is going to take care of a lot of things.”

Polanco missed 40 games with an assortment of injuries this season and underwent a pair of sports hernia surgeries earlier this week. And the 36-year-old also missed 30 games in 2009.

He’s still one of the game’s top contact hitters and remains able to post a solid batting average with decent on-base skills, but Polanco has managed just 11 homers and a .365 slugging percentage in 1,125 plate appearances since signing with the Phillies. During that time there are 24 different third basemen with at least 750 plate appearances and his .702 OPS ranks 20th, ahead of only Kevin Kouzmanoff, Miguel Tejada, Jose Lopez, and Brandon Inge.

Jimmy Rollins hitting the open market as a free agent will be the Phillies’ biggest infield issue this winter and finding a clear upgrade over Polanco may not fit into the payroll plans, but at the very least a quality backup seems likely to be on Ruben Amaro Jr.’s shopping list.

Video: Albert Almora, Jr. saved by the ivy

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The ALCS had a weird play in Game 4 on Tuesday night, but Game 4 of the NLCS did as well. This one involved Cubs outfielder Albert Almora, Jr. and his attempt to spark a rally in the bottom of the ninth inning against Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling.

After Alex Avila singled, Almora ripped a double to left field, past a diving Enrique Hernandez. The ball rolled to the ivy in front of the wall. Most outfielders there would’ve put their hands up, which would have alerted the umpires to call an immediate ground-rule double. Hernandez didn’t, instead fishing the ball out and firing it back into the infield. Avila had stopped at third base, but Almora kept running. Much to his surprise, he pulled up into third base to see his teammate standing there, resigned to his fate as a dead duck. Third baseman Justin Turner applied the tag on Almora for what he thought was the first out of the inning.

Almora, however, was then sent back to second base after the umpires correctly called a ground-rule double.

Unfortunately for the Cubs, the lucky break didn’t help as closer Kenley Jansen came in and took care of business, retiring all three batters he faced without letting an inherited runner score. The Dodgers won 6-1 and now lead the NLCS three games to none. They’ll try to punch their ticket to the World Series on Wednesday.