The scene: Nationals trail the Phillies 5-4 in the bottom of the seventh. They had just scored three to get back in the game. Bryce Harper represents the tying run on third base. Wilson Ramos steps to the plate against Phillies reliever B.J. Rosenberg. He trails 1-2 in the count but has fouled off four tough pitches in the at-bat, waiting for his pitch.
Then this happens:
Who knows what would have happened if the correct call was made and the count evened out at 2-2. Instead, the Phillies escaped the inning by the skin of their teeth, then called on closer Jonathan Papelbon to finish out the game. The right-hander danced around a lead-off double to Ryan Zimmerman, wrapping up the 5-4 victory, bringing the Nationals’ seven-game winning streak to an unceremonious end. As the Reds won, the Nationals drop to six games behind the second NL Wild Card at 78-70.
The call wasn’t as bad as the one made in favor of Joe Nathan earlier this season, but it looks ugly because catcher Carlos Ruiz had to reach for it. When the ball was caught, Ruiz’s glove hit the dirt.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.