New York tabloid: “Leave A-Rod alone!”

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Only Nixon could go to China, only Kirk could make peace with the Kilingons and only the New York Post can tell people that it’s time to stop going after Alex Rodriguez:

Look, Alex Rodriguez always has been Alex Rodriguez’s worst enemy, and perhaps his litany of career sins — runaway ego and greed mixed with steroids — is never going to be absolved, even if A-Rod has offered a better version of himself the past two years.

Nevertheless, at some point legitimate critique of Rodriguez has been usurped by something close to piling on. He is the fish in the barrel and shooting at him has become a hard-to-break habit. It feels like the fun, easy game that anyone can play.

Of course, that’s Joel Sherman, who usually does way better than your typical Post or Daily News opinion-monger, so it’s possible that he’ll be drummed out of the club for making such a suggestion.

But he’s right on the mark too.  It’s fair game to call out Rodriguez for his trespasses, but (a) it has been some time since he’s had a major one; and (b) the minor ones he gets beat up for are simply silly, even if they could be called trespasses (would that I do something so “embarrassing” as to have a famous Hollywood actress feed me by hand while sitting in expensive seats at the Super Bowl).

And Sherman’s main point is the best rebuttal of them all: Rodriguez works his ass off as a baseball player. And he’s one of the best who has ever lived. You’d think more time would be spent on that end of things.

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.