Phillies lose in one of the most embarrassing ways possible

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The Phillies, one of a handful of teams no one truly expected to be competitive this season, were in first place as recently as August 12. Since the 12th, however, the club has gone 5-11 with many of the losses coming in excruciating fashion due to the bullpen blowing late leads, the defense making inexcusable mistakes, and the offense being very inconsistent.

On Tuesday night, the Phillies found perhaps the dumbest possible way to lose a game. It was supposed to be a pitcher’s duel between Aaron Nola and Max Scherzer. Nola exited the seventh inning leading 3-2 with those two runs scoring on an indefensible throwing error from first baseman Carlos Santana that allowed both runners to score.

Reliever Tommy Hunter worked a 1-2-3 eighth on 11 pitches, so manager Gabe Kapler had him start the ninth. He issued a leadoff walk to Bryce Harper. While that’s bad, credit is due to Harper for laying off some really close pitches. Kapler yanked Hunter in favor of fellow veteran Pat Neshek. Neshek, however, threw a slider that didn’t slide and Rendon belted it into the seats in left field for a go-ahead two-run homer.

With every reason to hang their heads, the Phillies continued to fight. Nick Williams hit a one-out double and promptly scored when Wilson Ramos ripped a double down the left field line, putting the tying run at second base. Kapler chose to have pitcher Vince Velasquez pinch-run for Ramos, who is a very slow runner and only recently recovered from a hamstring injury. The next batter, Jorge Alfaro, hit a fly ball to medium-deep center field. As Michael Taylor camped under the ball, Velasquez decided to tag up and advance to third base, a choice that was his and his alone. The throw was a bit off-line and late, so Velasquez — who overslid the third base bag — advanced successfully. However, first baseman Ryan Zimmerman immediately pointed out that Velasquez left early. After a brief conference between the umpires, Velasquez was called out. The Phillies, of course, challenged, but the ruling stood and the game ended in a 5-4 loss.

Velasquez shouldn’t have been trying to advance anyway. The fly out represented the second out of the inning, so it wasn’t like he was setting up a possibility of scoring on a fly ball or a ground ball in the right spot. The only benefit of advancing to third base is in the case of a wild pitch or passed ball. Justin Miller had thrown exactly one wild pitch in 43 2/3 innings on the season. Catcher Matt Wieters has had only two passed balls all season in 429 1/3 defensive innings.

The Nationals, who threw in the towel recently by trading second baseman Daniel Murphy and 1B/OF Matt Adams, have taken four of five games from the Phillies dating back to last week. The 70-62 Phillies are now 4.5 games behind the Braves, who won on Tuesday.

No lease extension, but Orioles and governor tout partnership

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The Baltimore Orioles and Maryland Gov. Wes Moore announced a joint commitment to what they called a “multi-decade, public-private partnership” to revitalize the Camden Yards sports complex.

The statement from the team and the state’s new governor came Wednesday, the deadline for the Orioles to exercise a one-time, five-year extension to their lease at Camden Yards. The team was not planning to exercise that option, according to a person with knowledge of the decision. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the club hadn’t announced its decision.

With no extension, the lease is set to expire at the end of this year, but the team and the Maryland Stadium Authority can keep negotiating. Wednesday’s joint release seemed to be an attempt to calm any nerves in Baltimore about the team’s future.

“I am looking forward to continuing to collaborate with Governor Moore, his administration, and the Maryland Stadium Authority in order to bring to Baltimore the modern, sustainable, and electrifying sports and entertainment destination the state of Maryland deserves,” Orioles CEO John Angelos said.

“We greatly appreciate Governor Moore’s vision and commitment as we seize the tremendous opportunity to redefine the paradigm of what a Major League Baseball venue represents and thereby revitalize downtown Baltimore. It is my hope and expectation that, together with Governor Moore and the new members and new chairman of the MSA board, we can again fully realize the potential of Camden Yards to serve as a catalyst for Baltimore’s second renaissance.”

Republican Larry Hogan, the state’s previous governor, signed a bill last year increasing bond authorization for M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens, and Camden Yards. The measure allowed borrowing of up to $600 million for each stadium.

“When Camden Yards opened 30 years ago, the Baltimore Orioles revolutionized baseball and set the bar for the fan experience,” Moore, a Democrat, said Wednesday. “We share the commitment of the Orioles organization to ensuring that the team is playing in a world-class facility at Camden Yards for decades to come and are excited to advance our public-private partnership.”

Angelos recently reaffirmed that the Orioles would stay in Baltimore, although he dressed down a reporter who asked for more clarity on the future of the team’s ownership situation. Angelos was sued last year by his brother Lou, who claimed John Angelos seized control of the Orioles at his expense.