The Phillies, perhaps coincidentally, have started to play better since firing long-time manager Charlie Manuel and replacing him with Ryne Sandberg. With tonight’s walk-off victory, their third consecutive walk-off, they have won five of their last six games.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the Phillies victimized Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt, who we later found out was suffering from a sprained right elbow. Tonight against the D-Backs, the Phillies continued to fight back after falling behind early. Down 3-1 in the bottom of the sixth, catcher Carlos Ruiz doubled with the bases loaded to knock in two runs and tie the game at three apiece.
Diamondbacks closer Heath Bell relieved lefty Joe Thatcher in the eighth inning, recording the final two outs. Manager Kirk Gibson had him come back out in the ninth, but Bell couldn’t get the job done. Cody Asche and Jimmy Rollins both singled to start the frame, putting runners at first and third with no outs. Gibson ordered bell to walk Michael Young — one of the catalysts in the previous two comebacks — intentionally, bringing up Kevin Frandsen with the bases loaded and no outs, the winning run just 90 feet away. Frandsen struck out on a curve, bringing up Chase Utley. Utley worked the count to 2-0, Bell fought back to 2-2, and Utley took two more balls for the walk-off walk as the Phillies won 4-3.
Starters Cole Hamels and Wade Miley more or less matched each other as Hamels allowed three runs in seven innings and Miley allowed three runs in six innings. Hamels remains at 5-13, the 13 losses tied for the National League lead. The Diamondbacks fall to ten games behind the Dodgers in the NL West and 7.5 games out of the second Wild Card. The Phillies improve to 58-70 but their playoff aspirations have long since disappeared. Too little, too late for the Sandberg-led bunch.
For the first time in major league history, both pitchers in a playoff game have struck out at least 11 batters, per MLB.com’s Paul Casella. Mets starter Jacob deGrom has pitched just a hair better than Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw overall. deGrom has blanked the Dodgers over six frames on five hits and a walk. Kershaw made one mistake, resulting in a solo home run to Daniel Murphy in the fourth inning. He’s allowed four hits and four walks total in 6 2/3 innings.
The last time opposing starters each struck out 10 in a post-season game was back in 1944 in Game 5 of the World Series when Mort Cooper of the St. Louis Cardinals struck out 12 and Denny Galehouse of the St. Louis Browns struck out 10.
Mets outfielder Michael Cuddyer has already made a pair of mistakes in left field and he’s only four innings into the first game of the best-of-five NLDS against the Dodgers.
Leading off the second inning, Justin Turner sent a well-struck liner to Cuddyer which was quite catchable, but the ball clanked off of the veteran’s glove. Turner was credited with a double. Mets starter Jacob deGrom was able to work around the misplay, striking out Andre Ethier, A.J. Ellis, and Clayton Kershaw to close out the frame.
With two outs in the third inning, Corey Seager sent a fly ball down the left field line. Cuddyer took an inefficient route and the ball bounced about a foot inside the foul line, then into the stands, giving Seager a ground-rule double. To add insult to injury, Cuddyer ended up tumbling over the fence. deGrom, again, worked around Cuddyer’s mistake, striking out Adrian Gonzalez to end the inning.
Because he bats right-handed, Cuddyer got the start in left field over the left-handed-hitting rookie Michael Conforto against Kershaw, a southpaw. Conforto mustered only a .481 OPS against lefties this season compared to Cuddyer’s .698. Despite the batting disparity, one wonders how short a leash manager Terry Collins has on Cuddyer given his defense.
Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy broke a scoreless tie in the fourth inning, belting a solo home run to right field at Dodger Stadium off of starter Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw threw a 2-0, 94 MPH fastball and Murphy didn’t miss it.
Both teams’ starters are pitching quite well overall. Kershaw has allowed the one run on three hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Jacob deGrom started off the game with six consecutive strikeouts and has struck out seven total while blanking the Dodgers on three hits and a walk in three innings.
Kershaw doesn’t have the most impressive post-season track record, owning a career 5.12 ERA across eight starts and three relief appearances spanning 51 innings. Aside from the homer, the lefty appears to be putting that notion aside.