Brandon Phillips: “we choked”

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The guy tells it like it is. Sometimes when he shouldn’t. But you can pretty much expect him to go beyond the cliches before most guys do, and he did so last night after the Reds’ loss to the Pirates:

“We choked. I don’t care how my teammates feel about what I am saying now, because it’s truth. Either you win or you go home. And I’m going home. The last place I want to be is on my couch … I choked,” Phillips added. “I didn’t do [anything] to make the team win.”

I tend to be dismissive of people who claim that ballplayers “choked” as it implies some mental or emotional component to athletic failure that is never fair or reasonable for fans — who know next to nothing of what goes on in an athlete’s head — to assume. Baseball is a game which consists of an awful lot of failure. It isn’t necessarily something new or different just when it happens to come at the most inopportune times.

That said: when Phillips says it of himself? Well, OK, I’m willing to take his word for it. He and Joey Votto went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position and, after a couple of home runs put Johnny Cueto in a hole, the entire Reds lineup seemed to be trying to hit three-run homers with every swing. Even Votto was out of his usual game of plate patience. In his first two plate appearances he saw four pitches and swung at them all, grounding out on the first one and then striking out on three pitches.

If Brandon Phillips says he choked, I’m inclined to believe him. Especially after seeing how rattled Cueto and some of the other Reds reacted to the extremely hostile Pirates crowd.

Giants activate Hunter Strickland

Hunter Strickland
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Giants reliever Hunter Strickland has been activated from the 60-day disabled list, the club announced Saturday. In a corresponding move, third baseman Pablo Sandoval was shifted to the 60-day disabled list, where he’ll remain for the rest of the season after undergoing surgery on his right hamstring. Right-handed reliever Dereck Rodriguez has also been placed on the 10-day disabled list after suffering a hamstring strain during Tuesday’s brawl against the Dodgers.

Strickland, 29, had been shelved with a fractured right hand since mid-June. The right-hander sustained the injury after punching a door and underwent surgery to repair the fifth metacarpal in his pitching hand. He only missed the minimum after making a speedy recovery, however, and finished his recent rehab stint with 5 2/3 innings of two-run, 10-strikeout ball for the Giants’ rookie, High-A and Triple-A affiliates.

Prior to the incident, Strickland logged 13 saves in 28 opportunities with a 2.84 ERA, 3.7 BB/9 and 8.2 SO/9 in 34 appearances. According to comments from club skipper Bruce Bochy, the Giants don’t plan on wasting any time before deploying their former closer, but will make him available in high-leverage situations as soon as possible. It’s worth noting, too, that the team still has a viable closer in lefty reliever Will Smith, who picked up 10 saves and engineered a 3.10 ERA, 1.8 BB/9 and 12.8 SO/9 in 20 1/3 innings since Strickland landed on the DL this summer.