Marlins play dead as Phillies complete three-game sweep

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Is anyone involved with the Marlins even trying anymore?

Ownership isn’t. The team played with just 12 position players today, even though the it’s September and rosters can be expanded to 40.

Ozzie Guillen isn’t. Perhaps in protest of the limited roster he’s getting to work with, he just went three straight games without pinch-hitting for a position player. He also did next to nothing to back up Justin Ruggiano after his left fielder was tossed following a particularly horrendous ball-strike sequence today.

The players may be, but beyond Ruggiano, it’s hard to tell.

The Marlins were tied 1-1 in the top of the seventh today when John Buck walked to start the top of the inning against Cliff Lee. Time to manufacture a run, right? Nope. Donnie Murphy flied out to right, bringing up the pitcher’s spot. Josh Johnson might have had one inning left in him at the time, but certainly no more than that. It would have made a lot of sense to go to the bench and try to score that run.

Well, at least, it would have made a lot of sense had the Marlins possessed a right-handed hitter to bring in. The only righty on the bench today was Austin Kearns, who entered the game when Ruggiano was ejected. Rather than go to a left-handed hitter, Guillen left Johnson in to bunt. Johnson popped it up for an out, and Lee then retired Gorkys Hernandez to end the inning. Johnson came back out for the bottom of the seventh, gave up a two-run homer to Jimmy Rollins and the Marlins lost 3-1.

That, by the way, made it a three-game sweep for the Phillies, who are now over .500 at 72-71.

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.