A little early with these for a Friday. MLB must be getting out of town for a long weekend someplace. That’s nice.
Not so nice for these three Astros farm hands, however:
Shortstop Jose Fernandez, first baseman Michael Martinez and outfielder D’andre Toney have each been suspended for 50 games without pay after testing positive for an Amphetamine. Fernandez is currently on the roster of the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Astros while Martinez and Toney are on the roster of the Single-A Tri-City ValleyCats of the New York-Penn League.
Everyone have a safe Labor Day weekend. And stay away from amphetamines.
Roger Bernadina was very supportive of his pitching staff today, making a pair of impressive catches to help keep the Diamondback offense at bay. The athleticism is made all the more impressive considering that this afternoon’s game started just 11 hours after last night’s knock-down, drag-out, 18-inning affair ended.
The first great grab occurred In the third inning. The Phillies were leading 4-2, but the Diamondbacks were trying to mount a two-out rally with a runner on first base. Matt Davidson smoked a Roy Halladay fastball to straightaway center. Bernadina turned his back and tracked the ball just to the side of the 401 foot marker before leaping and snagging the ball before it could touch down beyond the fence.
The second grab came in the seventh. The Phillies had strengthened their lead to 9-2 and the Diamondbacks were running out of time. With the bases empty and one out, Tuffy Gosewich hit a Cesar Jimenez change-up to shallow left-center. Left fielder Darin Ruf, not exactly the most fleet of foot, had no shot at it and it looked as if it was going to be a lucky hit for the catcher. Bernadina laid out and snagged the ball inches above the grass, recording the second out.
On offense, Bernadina finished the day with a hit and two runs batted in.
Bernadina was released by the Nationals on August 19. On the 21st, the Phillies announced they had signed the outfielder to a Major League contract. Though he hasn’t hit much, he has filled the team’s pressing need for a capable center fielder. Since Ben Revere went on the disabled list with a broken ankle, the Phillies have mostly relied on John Mayberry in center, but have also tried Michael Martinez and Casper Wells without much success.
When the Dodgers entered Philadelphia to open up a three-game set against the Phillies, the two teams were on wildly divergent paths. The Phillies had lost 19 of 24 games since the All-Star break while the Dodgers had won 23 of 26. In the first two games of the Phillies, they did exactly as they should — they dominated the Phillies with two consecutive shut-outs, 4-0 behind Zack Greinke and 5-0 behind Clayton Kershaw.
The Dodgers staked starter Ricky Nolasco to an early 2-0 lead in the series finale this afternoon, but a solo home run by Darin Ruf and an RBI ground out by Cody Asche left the game tied going into the seventh. Both bullpens held serve going into the bottom of the ninth, when the Dodgers called on Brandon League to bring them to extra innings.
Paco Rodriguez struck out Asche to lead off the inning before giving way to Brandon League. Casper Wells hit what appeared to be a routine ground out to Ramirez at shortstop, but Ramirez’s throw was short and first baseman Jerry Hairston couldn’t corral it. Catcher Carlos Ruiz punched a single to right field to push Wells to third base. Controversially, manager Don Mattingly opted to intentionally walk Jimmy Rollins to load the bases. Rather than let Michael Martinez hit, new Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg pinch-hit with Michael Young, who did not start due to an aching Achilles. On the fifth pitch of the at-bat, Young hit what appeared to be a dead double play ball, but Ramirez bobbled it as he preemptively positioned himself to make the throw to second, allowing Wells to score the winning run. For those of you counting at home, that was ninth-inning error number two Ramirez.
It is certainly not the way the Dodgers wanted to be leaving Philadelphia, but the good news is that they will have a great opportunity to continue expanding their lead in the NL West as they open a four-game set against the Marlins in Miami.
Chase Utley said yesterday’s game at Double-A “went really well” and the Phillies apparently believed him, activating the second baseman from the disabled list just two days into a minor-league rehab assignment.
Utley went 0-for-9 at Double-A after spending a month on the DL with an oblique injury, so it’s certainly a hastened return timetable. To make room on the roster the Phillies optioned Michael Martinez back to Triple-A.
Utley was looking more or less like his old self before the injury, hitting .272 with seven homers and an .814 OPS in 44 games, and he even stole five bases.
So much for the Phillies’ big surge. The Philadelphia bullpen blew a 4-3 lead Sunday in a 7-6 loss to Astros, giving Houston a rare series win.
Antonio Bastardo took the loss in relief of Roy Halladay, though the blame more squarely rests on the broad shoulders of rookie Phillippe Aumont. The Astros scored four times in the seventh with a rally that started on a Michael Martinez error. Bastardo left with two on, one out and the 4-3 lead still intact. Aumont followed by giving up a walk, a two-run double and a two-run single to the only three hitters he faced, making it 7-4 Houston.
The Phillies came back with two runs on a Domonic Brown double in the top of the eighth, but it wasn’t enough.
Setup relief was the Phillies’ Achilles heel early this season, but it’s been much better in the second half, as the team has largely been successful in maintaining leads in front of Jonathan Papelbon. Today’s misstep was Aumont’s second in a row. He allowed just one run over 8 1/3 innings in his first nine appearances for the Phillies, but he’s given up four runs in the last two. He took the loss in Thursday’s series opener.
Back under .500 at 73-74, the Phillies again look like extreme long shots for the second wild card spot. While they’ll be “only” four games back of either the Cards or Dodgers at the end of the day, they’re going to have four teams ahead of them in the standings.