Looking ahead to tonight’s playoff action

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Sad jams:  this could be the last time we have multiple baseball games on one day this year. What’s on tap:

Giants vs. Cardinals, 4PM Eastern: Fox:  The series is tied 1-1, but in some ways it feels like the Cardinals are behind. Probably because their starting pitching is in need of some stability. Indeed, they haven’t had a starter go more than four innings in three straight playoff games. Sure, they’ve won two of those three games, but they can’t really expect to make it through a seven game series with the tightrope act they’ve had on display.

Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86 ERA) takes the hill for the Cards and will try to turn that dynamic around. This will be his first action against San Francisco this season.  Matt Cain (16-5, 2.79 ERA) goes for the Giants. He faced the Cardinals twice in 2012 and was beat up pretty badly, surrendering nine runs in 11 and two-thirds innings over two starts.  At present it looks like Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro will play despite the strained hip he suffered as a result of Matt Holliday’s farkakte slide in Monday’s game, but he is in some pain and we could just as easily see Ryan Theriot take his place.

Yankees vs. Tigers, 8PM Eastern: TBS: It’s do or die time for the Bombers, and if they have to do, at least they have CC Sabathia on the mound. The Yankees ace came up aces in each of his two playoff starts so far, and they need him to do it again or else it’s fishin’ season for New York. He’s 15-6 with a 3.38 ERA on the year. He made three starts against the Tigers in 2012, winning all three, while allowing eight earned runs in 21 and two-thirds.  Countering Sabathia will be Max Scherzer (16-7, 3.74). He was rocked by the Yankees in his lone start against them this year, but that came way back on April 29, and Scherzer in the second half of the season was a way different pitcher — a way better one — than he was back then.

The real issue isn’t the pitching, though — the Yankees’ pitching has been pretty fantastic, actually — it’s the dead bats. A-Rod and Nick Swisher seem like personae non gratae in Joe Girardi’s lineup, and even when they’ve been in it, they have been non-entities. As has Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and just about everyone else.  You can’t win if you don’t score, and the Yankees just haven’t done it. If this is the last time they play in 2012, it’ll be because the bats just died.

There was apparently some miscommunication between Pete Mackanin and Pat Neshek

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The Phillies won their first game since last Thursday, beating the Cardinals 5-1 on Thursday afternoon. Starter Aaron Nola pitched into the eighth inning, but left with one out. Pat Neshek took the mound with a runner on first base and induced an inning-ending double play on a 3-1 count to Tommy Pham.

Given that Neshek only threw five pitches and the Phillies were staked to a four-run lead, it wouldn’t have seemed unreasonable if the sidewinding right-hander came back out to finish the ninth inning as well. But Luis Garcia had that honor, tossing a scoreless final frame to nail down the win in a non-save situation.

After the game, manager Pete Mackanin said he asked Neshek to go back out for the ninth, but Neshek didn’t want to, per Stephen Gross of the Morning Call. Neshek told the media that Mackanin never asked him. There was also a miscommunication on Wednesday. The combination of Joaquin Benoit, Hector Neris, and Edubray Ramos combined to allow four runs in 2 1/3 innings, helping the Phillies lose 7-6. Neshek never appeared. According to Mackanin, Neshek told him that he wasn’t available to pitch. Neshek said he was told he’d have the day off.

The disconnect between Mackanin and Neshek could speak to a larger divide between the manager and his failing team. The Phillies have underwhelmed across the board due to players like Odubel Herrera (whose head was down and did not see Juan Samuel’s stop sign last night in what became a base running blunder), Maikel Franco, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Aaron Nola (today’s start notwithstanding), and Hector Neris not living up to expectations. The Phillies signed Mackanin to a contract extension last month, but the team has completely fallen apart since then and the latest communications issues certainly don’t reflect well on him. Neither does last night’s travesty of a game.

As for Neshek, he said that going to the Phillies was “the best thing that happened to me in a few years” but also realized, given the state of the team, that it remains very likely he winds up in a new uniform by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. After Thursday’s performance, Neshek is carrying a 0.63 ERA with a 25/4 K/BB ratio in 28 2/3 innings. He very well could be the Phillies’ lone representative at the All-Star Game in Miami next month. That is, if he’s still wearing their uniform. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Nationals have shown interest in Neshek.

The Blue Jays are allergic to .500

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The Blue Jays dropped Thursday afternoon’s game to the Rangers 11-4, splitting the four-game home series. And, impressively, the Blue Jays failed for the ninth time to get back to .500. The club is now 35-37.

Here’s a look at all the times the Blue Jays could’ve evened out their won-lost record and what happened:

  • April 5 (0-1): Lost 3-1 to the Orioles
  • April 7 (1-2): Lost 10-8 to the Rays
  • June 1 (26-27): Lost 12-2 to the Yankees
  • June 3 (27-28): Lost 7-0 to the Yankees
  • June 5 (28-29): Lost 5-3 to the Athletics
  • June 13 (31-32): Lost 8-1 to the Rays
  • June 16 (32-33): Lost 11-4 to the White Sox
  • June 20 (34-35): Lost 6-1 to the Rangers
  • June 22 (35-36): Lost 11-4 to the Rangers

The Blue Jays are now a half-game behind the Orioles for fifth place in the AL East, but they’re only 5.5 games behind the first-place Yankees. Interestingly, if the Blue Jays played in the NL East and had the same record, they would be in second place. But even the Phillies — baseball’s worst team — have been at .500 or better for a few days: after winning Opening Day and after game Nos. 6, 18, 19, 20, 21, and 22.