Daily Dose: Phillies turn to Madson as closer

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Brad Lidge was flawless last year, converting 41-of-41 save chances
with a 1.95 ERA, but blew six saves in 19 tries this season while
posting a 7.27 ERA and the Phillies placed him on the disabled list
Tuesday. Shutting Lidge down for a while may be the only way to stop
manager Charlie Manuel from using him in the ninth inning, so giving
his knee and arm some rest was the right move for the Phillies.

Ryan Madson was fantastic as Lidge’s primary setup man last season
and hasn’t missed a beat this year, posting a 2.84 ERA and 98/32 K/BB
ratio in 111 innings since the beginning of 2008. He’ll take over
ninth-inning duties and is an obvious must-own in all leagues, with
J.C. Romero stepping back into his setup role after returning last week
from a 50-game suspension.

While the Phillies hope that some time on the sidelines can cure Lidge, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* There were few surprises at the top of the draft Tuesday night, as
the Nationals selected San Diego State phenom Stephen Strasburg at No.
1 and the Mariners took North Carolina hitting machine Dustin Ackley at
No. 2. San Diego went with prep outfielder Donavan Tate at No. 3, while
Missouri ace Kyle Gibson fell all the way from consensus top-10 talent to Minnesota at No. 22 due to injury concerns.

Strasburg is capable of making an impact in the big leagues this
season, but the Nationals will have a difficult time simply signing him
by the mid-August deadline and there’ll be nothing to play for in
Washington anyway. Regardless of whether you buy into Strasburg being
the greatest college pitcher of all time or just one of the best in a
long time, if signed he should be a big fantasy asset by mid-2010.

* David Ortiz’s homer Saturday was a Fenway Park special, but his
two-run blast Tuesday off A.J. Burnett was a true bomb to deep center
field. His OPS narrowly squeaking past .600 is hardly cause for
celebration, but Ortiz has at least shown some actual signs of life
this month by going 7-for-24 (.292) with two homers and a double. With
his eyes checked and his swing looking better, maybe it’s time.

* Jesse Litsch has spent the past couple months rehabbing his elbow
injury after Dr. James Andrews twice recommended rest instead of
surgery, but those plans disappeared Tuesday when the Blue Jays
announced that he’ll undergo Tommy John surgery later this week. Litsch
had emerged as a solid mid-rotation starter, going 20-19 with a 3.83
ERA in 50 starts, but now faces 12 months of recovery.

AL Quick Hits: Jed Lowrie (wrist) is reportedly about one week
from beginning a rehab assignment … Brad Bergeson tossed eight
scoreless innings Tuesday for his third straight impressive outing …
Adam Lind homered Tuesday for the fourth time in five games and now
ranks fifth in the league with 45 RBIs … Ben Zobrist went deep Tuesday
for the 12th time in 148 at-bats and is sporting a 1.094 OPS after
coming into the year as a .222/.279/.370 hitter … Jose Arredondo was
10-2 with a 1.62 ERA last season, but is headed back to Triple-A after
posting a 5.55 ERA and pitching just three times since May 25 … Aaron
Poreda will work out of the bullpen initially after being called up
Tuesday, leaving Jose Contreras in the rotation with Bartolo Colon
(knee) going on the disabled list … Mark DeRosa hit a go-ahead grand
slam Tuesday and has 42 RBIs in 56 games despite a modest
.267/.332/.449 overall line … Cliff Lee’s streak of 10 straight Quality
Starts came to an end Tuesday with four runs in six innings.

NL Quick Hits: Jordan Zimmermann was scratched from his Tuesday
start with a sore elbow, but is slated to pitch Saturday … David Wright
homered Tuesday for the first time in over a month and is now batting
.348 … Johan Santana served up four homers Tuesday for just the second
time in his career, yet still managed his eighth victory … Jeremy
Hermida delivered a walk-off homer Tuesday versus Jason Motte … Mat
Gamel made his fourth straight start at third base Tuesday and smacked
his second career homer … J.J. Putz (elbow) underwent surgery Tuesday
and won’t be allowed to throw for at least six weeks … Carlos Gonzalez
went 2-for-4 with a steal while starting in left field Tuesday … As
expected, Chris Iannetta (hamstring) came off the disabled list Tuesday
and resumed starting for the Rockies … Pittsburgh will call up Charlie
Morton to start Wednesday against his former Braves teammates … Milton
Bradley (calf) rejoined the starting lineup Tuesday and is now
available for another injury.

Young Blue Jays say they aren’t intimidated by top seed Rays

Blue Jays roster and schedule
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) When the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays opened the pandemic-delayed season a little over two months ago, there was little to indicate the AL East rivals might meet again to begin the playoffs.

While the Rays launched the truncated 60-game schedule with expectations of making a strong bid for their first division title in a decade, the Blue Jays generally were viewed as an immensely talented young team still years away from postseason contention.

Tampa Bay didn’t disappoint, shrugging off a slow start to go a league-best 40-20 and claim the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs that begin Tuesday.

Lefty Blake Snell, who’ll start Game 1 of the best-of-three wild-card series against Toronto at Tropicana Field, also isn’t surprised that the eighth-seeded Blue Jays earned a spot, too.

The Rays won six of 10 games between the teams during the regular season, but were outscored 48-44 and outhomered 17-11.

And while Toronto (32-28) lacks the playoff experience Tampa Bay gained last season when the Rays beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before falling to Houston in the divisional round, the Blue Jays are building with exciting young players such as Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“They’ve got a lot of young guys who can ball over there,” Snell said. “It’s going to be fun to compete and see how we do.”

Rays defensive whiz Kevin Kiermaier said Tampa Bay, in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the second time franchise history, will not take the Blue Jays lightly.

“We know we’re playing a real good team,” Kiermaier said. “It’s not going to be easy, regardless of what a team is seeded.”

The Blue Jays, who’ll start right-hander Matt Shoemaker, aren’t conceding anything.

Bichette said he and his teammates respect how good Tampa Bay is, but are not intimidated by facing the No. 1 seed.

“I would say that we didn’t care who we played. I would say that we didn’t mind playing Tampa, that’s for sure. We’re familiar with them. We’ve played them well,” Bichette said.

“I think we’re confident in our ability against them. Our talent matches up well,” Bichette added. “We think if we play well we’ve got a good chance.”

NO FANS

The stands at Tropicana Field will be empty, leaving players to wonder what the atmosphere will be like for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay routinely rank at or near the bottom of the majors in attendance, but usually pack the stands in the domed stadium during the postseason.

“It will be different,” Bichette said. “Normally when you think of your first postseason you think 40,000, you think about not being able to think it’s so loud, stuff like that.”

The Blue Jays open the playoffs near where they hold spring training in Dunedin, Florida. It’s been a winding road for Toronto, which played its home games in Buffalo, New York, at the site of its Triple-A affiliate after the Canadian government barred the Blue Jays from hosting games at their own stadium because of coronavirus concerns.

CONFIDENT RAYS

Tampa Bay’s five-game loss to Houston in last year’s divisional round was a source of motivation during the regular season.

“It definitely lit a fire under everybody. It really showed us we belong. … We gave them a tough series,” second baseman Brandon Lowe said.

“We won the wild-card game. We belong in the postseason. I think that did a lot for us to understand that we should be in the postseason and we can go a lot farther. We know what to expect this time around. I think everyone in our clubhouse expects to be playing until the end of October,” he said.

CLOSE FRIENDS

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash has the Rays in the playoffs for the second time. His close friend and former Rays third base and bench coach Charlie Montoyo is in his second year as manager of the Blue Jays, who last made the playoffs in 2016.

“Pretty special,” Cash said of his relationship with Montoyo.

“I really learned a lot from him being around him. The way he carried himself. His hand print is throughout this organization,” Cash added. “A pretty big impact and a positive one. … When they clinched I talked to him, we face-timed at 1:30 in the morning. I’m so happy for him.”