Scott Rolen's body lets him down again

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A bounce-back first half for one of baseball’s surprise teams led to a much-deserved All-Star appearance, and all again seemed right in Scott Rolen’s world. He appeared well on his way to his best season since 2004, and it was suddenly worth thinking about his Hall of Fame merits again.
And then July hit. Rolen missed two of the final three games before the All-Star break with back soreness. After playing in the Reds’ first game back, he missed the next two with an illness of some sort. Now the team is also admitting that he’s dealing with a right hamstring injury that required a cortisone shot. He’ll miss his third straight game tonight, and he told the Cincinnati Enquirer that he’s not sure how long he’ll be out.
It could be a sign of things to come for Rolen. He played in 77 of the Reds’ first 87 games, putting him on pace to reach 140 games for the first time since 2006. That was also the last time he went a year without spending time on the DL. In the three full years since, he’s appeared in 112, 115 and 128 games. 2003 was the last season in which Rolen played in 150 games.
Rolen, though, is 35, and he didn’t figure to suddenly become more durable with age. And the Reds are going to be in serious trouble if he can’t stay relatively healthy from here on in. The team is 48-32 in the 80 games in which Rolen has played this year and 3-10 when he’s been absent. Their backup third baseman is Miguel Cairo, and while they do have Juan Francisco on the farm, the 23-year-old’s shaky defense and all-or-nothing approach at the plate would likely make him a similarly huge downgrade.
That’s why a legitimate backup third baseman should be near the top of GM Walt Jocketty’s shopping list with the trade deadline approaching. Jhonny Peralta would likely come cheap, as the Indians appear to have no interest in retaining him for 2011. The Reds haven’t been mentioned as one of the teams targeting Ty Wigginton, but maybe he’d be an option if the Orioles lowered their asking price. I don’t think either Mike Lowell or Pedro Feliz is worth pursuing, but a more versatile player like Craig Counsell or Mike Fontenot could be.

Brewers hold off the Dodgers to force Game 7 of the NLCS

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Down 3-2 in the NLCS, the Brewers faced a must-win situation during Game 6 on Friday. Any residual uncertainty they might have felt about their chances of extending the series was all but resolved in the first inning, however, when Jesús Aguilar, Mike Moustakas, and Erik Kratz combined for a four-run spread to take an early lead. Powered by those early-game RBI, as well as masterful performances from Wade Miley, Corey Knebel, and Corbin Burnes, the club surged to a 7-2 win to pull even with the Dodgers and force a Game 7 tiebreaker.

Left-hander Wade Miley trounced the Dodgers in 4 1/3 innings of two-run, four-strikeout ball. He was bested by David Freese in the very first at-bat of the night, which culminated with a 402-footer to right field to put Los Angeles on the board, 1-0. After a few scoreless innings from the Dodgers, Freese returned to torment Miley in the top of the fifth, this time with an RBI double that narrowed the Brewers’ advantage from four runs to three.

Things didn’t go nearly as smoothly for opposing lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu. In the bottom of the first inning, Ryu allowed a leadoff single to Lorenzo Cain, followed by a four-pitch walk to Ryan Braun. Jesús Aguilar came up to bat with two out and two on, then smacked a two-RBI line drive double to right field. Moustakas and Kratz went back-to-back-to-back with Aguilar, putting up another three runs on an RBI double and single, respectively.

The Brewers kept rolling in the second inning. Christian Yelich and Braun each collected a double off of Ryu, bringing Milwaukee’s lead to 5-1 over Los Angeles. Braun advanced to third on a Travis Shaw groundout, but with Aguilar up to bat, Ryu wasn’t going to chance a repeat of the Dodgers’ first-inning debacle. He intentionally walked Aguilar, then whiffed Moustakas on three straight fastballs to cap the inning.

By the time both Miley and Ryu were forced from the mound, the Brewers stood 5-2 above their opponents. Right-hander Corey Knebel worked a scoreless 1 2/3 innings, striking out Manny Machado to eliminate another potential rally from the Dodgers in the fifth inning and retiring all four batters in the sixth (save for Joc Pederson, who reached base after taking a 96.3-MPH fastball to the wrist). The righty received another significant opportunity to do some damage against the Dodgers in the bottom of the fifth, when he came up to bat for the first time in his professional career with the bases loaded and two outs… but saw just four pitches before swinging at a 1-2 pitch to end the inning.

After Ryu’s unexpected departure in the third, Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts cycled through five pitchers — Julio Urías, Alex Wood, Dylan Floro, Caleb Ferguson, and Kenta Maeda — in an attempt to squelch the Brewers’ comeback. The bullpen combined for four consecutive scoreless frames, but was ultimately foiled in the seventh, when, with runners on second and third and two outs, a wild pitch from Maeda ricocheted off the front of home plate and allowed Aguilar to plate yet another insurance run. Still not content with a two-hit, two-RBI performance, Aguilar came back in the bottom of the eighth with an RBI single — only moments after a failed double play that would have ended the inning — to bring the Brewers to a cushy 7-2 advantage as they entered the ninth.

No similar last-minute rallies awaited the Dodgers there. Rookie right-hander Corbin Burnes orchestrated another flawless 1-2-3 inning in the ninth, retiring Pederson and Puig with consecutive strikeouts and inducing a game-inning, series-extending pop-up from Matt Kemp to wrap the win.

Game 7 is set for 8:09 PM EDT on Saturday. The starters for both clubs have yet to be announced.