In which I “express interest” in Cliff Lee

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Ken Rosenthal reports that “7-8 teams” have expressed interest already in free agent left-hander Cliff Lee.  I’m interested in Cliff Lee too — he’s a good pitcher and I’m going to have to write about him for the next several years, after all — so let’s make it “7-8 teams + one blogger.”  You can play that game all day if you want to, because no one has defined what “expressed interest” really means in a baseball context.

The fact is, the “expressed interest” rumor is about as baseline as it gets during the free agency season. It’s more respectable than reports of “internal discussions” or “kicking the tires” because those things imply that the team hasn’t even made a freakin’ phone call (I’ve had internal discussions about the divorcee that moved in across the street from me last month, but sources say that’s not going to get beyond the kicking the tires stage due to roster limitations), but it’s not an offer. And really, until there are offers all of this is so much chatter.  Like I said the other day, we blog about even the chatter because we think that provides a service, but let us not go crazy about this sort of thing.

Anyway, for those of you who care about such things, Intrade currently has the Yankees as big favorites for Cliff Lee’s services, the Rangers next, the Mets and Nationals making the radar screen, and “field” doing pretty darn well.  I don’t know that, absent any news of an actual offer, any of us can do any better than that.

Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.

In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.

On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.

Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.