The scene: Nationals trail the Phillies 5-4 in the bottom of the seventh. They had just scored three to get back in the game. Bryce Harper represents the tying run on third base. Wilson Ramos steps to the plate against Phillies reliever B.J. Rosenberg. He trails 1-2 in the count but has fouled off four tough pitches in the at-bat, waiting for his pitch.
Then this happens:
Who knows what would have happened if the correct call was made and the count evened out at 2-2. Instead, the Phillies escaped the inning by the skin of their teeth, then called on closer Jonathan Papelbon to finish out the game. The right-hander danced around a lead-off double to Ryan Zimmerman, wrapping up the 5-4 victory, bringing the Nationals’ seven-game winning streak to an unceremonious end. As the Reds won, the Nationals drop to six games behind the second NL Wild Card at 78-70.
The call wasn’t as bad as the one made in favor of Joe Nathan earlier this season, but it looks ugly because catcher Carlos Ruiz had to reach for it. When the ball was caught, Ruiz’s glove hit the dirt.
Twins right-hander Ervin Santana is headed back to the disabled list after experiencing a flare-up of symptoms related to the MVP joint injury he sustained on his right middle finger back in February. According to club manager Paul Molitor, no timetable has been revealed for his return to the rotation, but given the significant time he’s already missed this season, it seems unlikely that he’ll play a significant role — if any — down the stretch. He’s currently scheduled to see a hand specialist on Tuesday, after which the Twins will reevaluate his status and decide whether or not to shut him down for the remainder of the 2018 season.
Santana, 35, underwent surgery on his finger in February and missed over five months during a lengthy recovery process. The veteran righty was activated from the 60-day disabled list in July, but has pitched to an 0-1 record in five starts since then, with an abysmal 8.03 ERA, 3.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 through 24 2/3 innings. His most recent start, Thursday’s surprising 15-8 win over the Tigers, was also his worst of the season: He allowed seven runs and three walks over four innings and struck out just two of 22 batters faced before calling it a night in the fifth inning.
Given Santana’s continued struggles on the mound and the uphill battle he faces in recovery, it’s difficult to imagine that the team will exercise his $14 million option for 2019 come fall. Until then, the Twins’ no. 5 prospect, 24-year-old southpaw Stephen Gonsalves, is expected to assume Santana’s spot in the rotation. Gonsalves turned in a 12-3 record in 22 starts for Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Rochester, with a cumulative 2.76 ERA, 4.8 BB/9 and 9.0 SO/9 through 120 2/3 innings.