Daily Dose: Hamels, Phillies keep rolling

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Last week I wrote about why Cole Hamels’ disappointing win-loss record and bloated ERA misleadingly showed a big decline compared to last season when in reality he’s been nearly as good with just a lot less luck. Hamels was nice enough to make me look smart Tuesday night, hurling a complete-game, two-hit shutout for a 1-0 victory over the Giants.
Even with that masterful outing Hamels is still just 8-8 with a 4.26 ERA, but as noted last week nearly all of the underlying numbers that make up his performance are just as good and in some cases better than they were last year. He’s every bit the same stud as last season, Cliff Lee is 5-1 with a 1.80 ERA since joining him in the rotation, and the Phillies have now won 15 of 20 games.
While the defending champs look awfully scary after building a large enough lead to coast down the stretch, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Monday’s trading deadline nearly came and went without any big action, but just as the clock was about to strike midnight the Dodgers made a pair of moves to pick up Jim Thome and Jon Garland for the final month. Thome is obviously a big name and put up big stats for Chicago with 23 homers and 74 RBIs in 107 games, but there’s no designated hitter in the NL and he hasn’t played first base regularly in years.
Immediately after the trade was announced Monday night Thome explained that he’s not physically capable of being anything more than an emergency option at first base and general manager Ned Colletti later confirmed that he’s being brought in strictly to serve as a pinch-hitter and possible DH for the World Series. That crushes Thome’s fantasy value while leaving James Loney’s mediocre upset intact.
* Along with sending marginal prospect Justin Fuller to the White Sox to get Thome as a bench bat the Dodgers also shipped a player to be named later that’s believed to be Tony Abreu to the Diamondbacks for Garland and enough money to cover his remaining 2009 salary and $2.5 million buyout for 2010. Abreu is an intriguing player now that he’s healthy again, but at that price the move was a no-brainer for L.A.
Garland recovered from a rough first few months to post a 3.45 ERA over his last 12 starts, but at 29 years old he’s well established as merely an innings eater. Garland is 8-11 with a 4.29 ERA and 83/52 K/BB ratio in 168 innings overall, has had an ERA under 4.20 just once since 2002, and features one of the worst strikeout rates in the league. Not a bad pickup for the Dodgers, but not worth much for fantasy teams.
AL Quick Hits: Carlos Carrasco was rocked in his MLB debut Tuesday, allowing five hits and a walk to the first six batters he faced … Michael Young will undergo an MRI exam after leaving Tuesday’s game with a strained hamstring … Sean Rodriguez will be a nice AL-only sleeper next season after coming to the Rays as the player to be named later for Scott Kazmir … On a related note, Andy Sonnanstine rejoined the rotation Tuesday in Kazmir’s old spot … Grady Sizemore may choose to have elbow surgery before the end of the year to guarantee that he’ll be ready for 2010 … Jose Guillen returned from the disabled list Tuesday after sitting out since mid-July with a torn knee ligament … Adam Jones exited Tuesday’s game with an ankle injury that looked relatively serious … Ken Griffey Jr. missed Tuesday’s game with a sore left knee … Carlos Pena blasted his MLB-leading 39th homer Tuesday to go along with just 38 singles.
NL Quick Hits: David Wright returned from the disabled list Tuesday after two weeks on the sidelines thanks to a Matt Cain beaning … St. Louis has reportedly extended closer Ryan Franklin’s contract through 2011 … Nate McLouth (hamstring) is slated to begin a rehab assignment Thursday at Single-A … Jose Contreras will make his Rockies debut Saturday … John Maine (shoulder) has begun a throwing program in the hopes of pitching again this season … In an effort to keep his workload in check, Mat Latos will be shut down for the year after making one more start Saturday … As expected, Jason Giambi joined the Rockies as a bench player Tuesday … Arizona acquired Kevin Mulvey from Minnesota as the player to be named later from Friday’s trade for Jon Rauch … Kyle Lohse (groin) threw a 40-pitch simulated game Tuesday and reported no problems … Johan Santana (elbow) and Oliver Perez (knee) both underwent successful surgeries Tuesday morning by the same doctor.

Blue Jays clinch 1st playoff spot since 2016, beat Yanks 4-1

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Barred from playing in their own ballpark this year because of COVID-19, the vagabond Toronto Blue Jays have found a home in the playoffs.

The slumping New York Yankees, meanwhile, look likely to play on the road in the postseason, where they’ve struggled all year.

Hyun Jin Ryu pitched seven shutout innings and the Blue Jays clinched their first postseason spot since 2016, beating the Yankees 4-1 Thursday night and further damaging New York’s chances of hosting a first-round series.

New York lost for the fourth time in five games following a 10-game winning stretch and remained two games behind the slumping White Sox for the fourth seed. Chicago lost 5-4 at Cleveland, its fifth straight defeat.

“We’ve got to get it rolling again, obviously, if we’re going to get to where we want to go,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I’m confident we can do it.

New York went 21-7 at home this season but was 11-18 on the road. Boone said he’s not concerned about that split even as a potential road playoff series looms next week.

“We’ve got to get ourselves in order and start playing really good baseball if we’re going to give ourselves a chance,” Boone said.

Toronto secured at least an AL wild-card spot and ensured its eighth trip overall to the postseason. The Blue Jays had endured three losing campaigns since their previous playoff trip, going 67-95 last season.

“I’m just so proud of my club and everything we’ve gone through all year,” second-year manager Charlie Montoyo said.

Canada’s federal government refused to allow games at Toronto’s Rogers Centre this season, citing the closed Canada-U.S. border and the travel risk associated with the pandemic. Stuck on the road to start the season, the Blue Jays eventually ended up at their Triple-A ballpark, Sahlen Field in Buffalo, but didn’t gripe about their fate.

“They never complained,” Montoyo said. “They had their mind set on getting to this moment right now.”

Blue Jays players embraced after Rafael Dolis struck out Aaron Hicks to end it, donning blue T-shirts that said “Respect Toronto.”

“This is something we want to make an every year thing,” infielder Cavan Biggio said. “For us, we’re happy, we’re excited we’re able to put ourselves in this position, but this is only the start of hopefully something special for a long time.”

The Blue Jays trail the Yankees by two games for second place in the AL East. Both teams have three games remaining. Toronto hosts Baltimore in Buffalo this weekend while the Yankees host the Marlins.

New York failed to hit a homer for the fourth straight game, matching its longest streak since June 2016. It’s the first time the Yankees have failed to homer in a four-game series since doing so at Texas in July 2013.

“I’m concerned with the way we’ve played recently,” outfielder Brett Gardner said. “Any time you’re not playing your best baseball and the postseason is right around the corner, something needs to be corrected rather quickly.”

New York loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth, but pinch-hitter Gary Sanchez flied out to deep center, where Randal Grichuk made a leaping catch at the wall.

“It’s good to see him get a really good swing off in a big spot,” Boone said of Sanchez. “Just unfortunately, that short.”

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. homered for Toronto, his eighth.

Ryu (5-2) scattered five hits, walked two and struck out four. Luke Voit and Hicks hit back-to-back singles to begin the sixth but Ryu struck out Giancarlo Stanton, got Gleyber Torres to fly out, and retired Gio Urshela on a groundball.

“He’s an ace and he did what an ace does,” Montoyo said.

The left-hander lowered his ERA from 3.00 to 2.69.

Dolis got four outs for his fifth save in six chances.

Guerrero opened the scoring with a solo homer off left-hander Jordan Montgomery (2-3) in the second.

The Blue Jays extended their lead when Biggio and Bo Bichette hit back-to-back, two-out doubles in the third.

Toronto made it 4-0 in the sixth. Grichuk chased Montgomery with a single and Guerrero singled off Adam Ottavino before rookie Alejandro Kirk hit a two-out, two-run double.

Montgomery lost for the first time in four starts. He allowed three runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings.

The Blue Jays finished 5-5 in their 10-game regular season series against the Yankees.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Nate Pearson (elbow) was activated off the injured list and RHP Wilmer Font was designated for assignment. . RHP Jordan Romano (strained right middle finger) will throw a second bullpen session Friday.

Yankees: Aaron Judge came on as a pinch-hitter but is expected to start all three remaining regular season games, Boone said.

SHARED DUTY

Boone said he expects to use both Sanchez and Kyle Higashioka at catcher in the postseason. Higashioka has hit well while working with ace Gerrit Cole, while Sanchez has struggled with both offense and his defense down the stretch.

SEVEN UP

Ryu became the first Blue Jays starting pitcher since Aug. 22, 2019, to pitch into the seventh. It had been an MLB-record 88 games since RHP Jacob Waguespack pitched into the seventh at Dodger Stadium last year.

UP NEXT

Yankees: LHP J.A. Happ (2-2, 3.25) starts Friday as New York returns home to begin a three-game series against Miami. RHP Sandy Alcantara (3-2, 3.12) starts for the Marlins.

Blue Jays: RHP Taijuan Walker (4-3, 2.86) starts Friday in the opener of a three-game series against Baltimore. The Orioles have not named a starter.