Phillies walk off for the third consecutive game

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The Phillies, perhaps coincidentally, have started to play better since firing long-time manager Charlie Manuel and replacing him with Ryne Sandberg. With tonight’s walk-off victory, their third consecutive walk-off, they have won five of their last six games.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the Phillies victimized Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt, who we later found out was suffering from a sprained right elbow. Tonight against the D-Backs, the Phillies continued to fight back after falling behind early. Down 3-1 in the bottom of the sixth, catcher Carlos Ruiz doubled with the bases loaded to knock in two runs and tie the game at three apiece.

Diamondbacks closer Heath Bell relieved lefty Joe Thatcher in the eighth inning, recording the final two outs. Manager Kirk Gibson had him come back out in the ninth, but Bell couldn’t get the job done. Cody Asche and Jimmy Rollins both singled to start the frame, putting runners at first and third with no outs. Gibson ordered bell to walk Michael Young — one of the catalysts in the previous two comebacks — intentionally, bringing up Kevin Frandsen with the bases loaded and no outs, the winning run just 90 feet away. Frandsen struck out on a curve, bringing up Chase Utley. Utley worked the count to 2-0, Bell fought back to 2-2, and Utley took two more balls for the walk-off walk as the Phillies won 4-3.

Starters Cole Hamels and Wade Miley more or less matched each other as Hamels allowed three runs in seven innings and Miley allowed three runs in six innings. Hamels remains at 5-13, the 13 losses tied for the National League lead. The Diamondbacks fall to ten games behind the Dodgers in the NL West and 7.5 games out of the second Wild Card. The Phillies improve to 58-70 but their playoff aspirations have long since disappeared. Too little, too late for the Sandberg-led bunch.

Justin Verlander laughed at after saying Astros were “technologically and analytically advanced”

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Justin Verlander was at the annual Baseball Writers Association of America banquet last night, on hand to accept the 2019 Cy Young Award. Normally such things are pretty routine events, but nothing is routine with the Houston Astros these days.

During his acceptance speech, Verlander made some comments about the Astros’ “technological and analytical advancements.” The comments were greeted by some laughter in the room as well as some groans. At least one person on hand claimed that other players present were visibly angry.

It’s hard to tell the context of it all without a full video — maybe Verlander meant it as a joke, maybe the reactions were more varied than is being described — but here’s how reporters on hand for it last night are describing it:

If it was a joke it was ill-timed, as not many around the game think the sign-stealing stuff is funny at the moment. Especially in light of the fact that, despite having several opportunities to do so, Astros players have failed to show any accountability for their cheating.

And yes, that includes former Astros Dallas Keuchel, who was praised for “apologizing” at a White Sox fan event on Friday, but whose “apology” was couched in a lot of deflection and excuse-making about how it was just something that was done at the time and about how technology was to blame. Keuchel also tried to minimize it, saying that the Astros didn’t do it all the time. Which is rich given that the most prominent video evidence of their trash can-banging scheme came from a blowout Astros win in a meaningless August game against a losing team. If they were doing it in that situation, please, do not tell me they weren’t doing it when games really mattered.

Anyway, I’d like to think Verlander was just trying to take a stab at a joke here, because Verlander is the wrong guy to be sending to be sending any kind of messages diminishing the cheating given that he has a pretty solid track record of holding other players’ feet to the fire when they get busted.

For example, here he was in 2018 after Robinson Canó got busted for PEDs:

Of course, consistency can be a problem for Verlander when his teammates are on the ones who are on the hook. Here was his response to Tigers infielder Jhonny Peralta being suspended in the wake of the Biogenesis scandal:

“Everybody makes mistakes. He’s my brother. We fight and bleed and sweat together on the baseball field. If my brother makes a mistake, especially if he owns up to it and serves his time, I don’t see how you can hold a grudge or anything like that. “It’s one thing to step up and be a man and own up to his mistake.”

Verlander, it should also be noted, was very outspoken about teams engaging in advanced sign-stealing schemes once upon a time. here he was in 2017, while still with the Tigers, talking about such things in a June 2017 interview with MLive.com.

“We don’t have somebody, but I’m sure teams have a person that can break down signals and codes and they’ll have the signs before you even get out there on the mound.  It’s not about gamesmanship anymore. It used to be, ‘Hey, if you can get my signs, good for you.’ In the past, if a guy on second (base) was able to decipher it on a few pitches, I guess that was kind of part of the game. I think it’s a different level now. It’s not good.”

Which makes me wonder how he felt when he landed on the Astros two months later and realized they had a sophisticated cheating operation underway. If the feelings were mixed, he was able to bury the part of them which had a problem with it, because he’s said jack about it since this all blew up in November. And, of course, has happily accepted the accolades and the hardware he he has received since joining Houston, some of which was no doubt acquired by virtue of a little extra, ill-gotten run support.

Anyway, wake me up when someone — anyone — associated with the Astros shows some genuine accountability about this.