Bust no more: Carlos Gomez has been one of the best players in baseball

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Carlos Gomez continued his breakout season yesterday by smacking two homers against the Twins, who acquired him from the Mets as a prospect in the Johan Santana deal and traded him to the Brewers for J.J. Hardy two disappointing seasons later.

Gomez was a bust in Minnesota, hitting .248 with a .645 OPS in 290 games, and he produced similarly underwhelming numbers through his first two-and-a-half years in Milwaukee. But then something clicked around the All-Star break last year.

Since the beginning of last season’s second half Gomez is hitting .300 with 24 homers, 24 doubles, 35 steals, and an .883 OPS in 123 games. Toss in his always excellent defense in center field and he’s been one of the best all-around players in baseball for nearly a full season.

Among all MLB hitters with at least 100 games since last year’s All-Star break his .539 slugging percentage ranks seventh, behind only Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis, Buster Posey, Ryan Braun, Mike Trout, and Adrian Beltre. Trout is the only other center fielder ahead of Gomez during that time and the next-highest center fielder is Adam Jones in 26th place.

In other words, only Mike Trout’s historically amazing performance has kept Carlos Gomez from being the best center fielder in baseball for the past 10 months. And now the Brewers look awfully smart for signing the 27-year-old to a three-year, $24 million extension in March.

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.