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Report: Astros are looking at Jeff Samardzija as a trade candidate

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MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the Astros are doing preliminary background work on Giants’ right-hander Jeff Samardzija. Nothing has been substantiated by either team yet, but the veteran righty would be an interesting get for the Astros, whose pool of right-handed starters currently features Lance McCullers Jr., Charlie Morton, Mike Fiers, Brad Peacock, Francis Martes, Joe Musgrove and Collin McHugh (10-day DL, elbow impingement).

Samardzija hasn’t been hanging around the top of the leaderboard this year, at least not when it comes to run prevention, but his peripheral stats show that he’s putting together a more solid run than his 4-10 record and 4.58 ERA suggest. He’s maintained a 1.1 BB/9 and career-best 9.7 SO/9 through the first 118 innings of the season and has pitched into the sixth inning in all but three of his starts.

Consistency is at a premium these days, especially for a club that’s well-positioned to contend this fall, and that may be reason enough for the Astros to take a flyer on the 32-year-old. He’s no Jose Quintana, to be sure, but has tossed over 200 innings in each of his last four seasons and has stayed remarkably healthy over the entirety of his 10-year career. While Samardzija is set to remain under team control through the 2020 season, he’s still owed $60+ million on his five-year contract, which could be enough to put off any suitors looking for a bargain arm to stabilize their rotation.

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.