Why Lidge is difference-maker for Phils (cont.)
Stud of the Day
Brian Schneider -- who? -- belted a couple of solo home runs for the Mets on Thursday, which wasn't enough to get them back into first place in the NL East. But it did help them beat the Nationals and it did give them a little more breathing room in the battle for the NL wild card. It was Schneider's first multi-homer game since 2003. The Mets now have a 1 1/2-game wild-card cushion on the Brewers.
Dud of the Day
On a bad day for at least a couple of closers, Salomon Torres had one of the worst days of his career. Torres, the Brewers' closer, served up a two-out, three-run homer on a first-pitch fastball to Cubs catcher Geovany Soto in the ninth that tied the score and, ultimately, sent the Crew to a gut-ripping loss in extra innings. Soto gave up four hits and four runs in his inning, his worst outing since giving up five runs to the Reds in 2006.
What Was He Thinking?
While Torres rightly deserves the lion's share of the blame for yesterday's crippling loss, it was a base running blunder in the top of the ninth that, had it gone differently, would have put the game out of reach.
With runners on first and third and no one out, Corey Hart lined a ball to left. One run scored easily, but J.J. Hardy was waved home ill-advisedly by third base coach Garth Iorg and was nailed at the plate. Compounding matters, Hart was thrown out trying to advance to third one pitch later when a ball bounced away from Cubs catcher Geovany Soto. So instead of having runners at second and third, still no outs and a chance to put the game out of reach, the Brewers were left with the bases empty and two outs, still holding a four-run lead.
The Cubs tied the score with four runs in the bottom of the inning and won the game in the 12th.
Quote of the Day
"Everything worked for them in the last inning. Nobody's perfect."
-- Rays manager Joe Maddon on the Twins' ninth-inning comeback
Friday's Key Games
Cardinals (Wainwright) at Cubs (Zambrano), 2:20 p.m.
No way Lou Piniella lets his ace get anywhere close to ninth in this one
Red Sox (Byrd) at Blue Jays (Burnett), 7:07 p.m.
Last series of the year for Sox on road (37-41, 2-4 in Toronto)
Brewers (Suppan) at Reds (Ramirez), 7:10 p.m.
New Milwaukee skipper Dale Sveum juggles rotation after Thursday disaster
Phillies (Myers) at Marlins (Johnson), 7:10 p.m.
Coming off CG win vs. MIL, Myers has a 1.85 ERA in three Sept. starts
Twins (Blackburn) at Rays (Jackson), 7:10 p.m.
Blackburn already at 30 more IP (180+) than he threw in all of '07
Mets (Perez) at Braves (Reyes), 7:30 p.m.
Up-and-down Perez struggling with 5.82 ERA in three Sept. starts
Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon called for his closer, Troy Percival, in the eighth inning on Thursday night, the first time all year that the veteran right-hander has been used before the ninth inning. And Dan Wheeler, who has been pretty good, promptly entered in the ninth and made Maddon look like a dweeb. Wheeler served up a home run to Minnesota's Alexi Casilla as part of a five-run inning that turned an 8-6 lead into an 11-8 defeat and rendered moot three home runs from Rays third baseman Evan Longoria.
The Cubs' comeback was something, but that was a pretty dismal performance from rookie reliever Jeff Samardzija, who walked two, gave up three hits and allowed four runs in two-thirds of an inning. None of the runs were earned, courtesy of an error by Mark DeRosa at second base. Still, two walks? That's not going to cut it this time of year.
No one knows quite where everything stands with Milwaukee's Ben Sheets, who had to leave a game Wednesday with a sore elbow/forearm. Sheets, evidently, has had some pain for a couple of weeks. If he can't pitch, new manager Dale Sveum has suggested he may go with a four-man rotation and maybe even call on CC Sabathia on short rest. These are desperate times in Milwaukee.
The Twins' comeback was absolutely critical, considering the Yankees had pounded the first-place White Sox earlier in the evening. The Sox have now lost three of four, and their lead in the AL Central over the Twins is down to 1 1/2 games. But Chicago plays the Royals this weekend, while the Twins finish things out with the Rays. The Twins and White Sox face each other in four games in Minnesota starting Tuesday.
How bad was the Brewers' blowup on Thursday? In addition to the fiasco in both halves of the ninth inning, the Crew had the bases loaded and one out in the first and didn't score. In the fifth, pitcher Dave Bush allowed himself to be deked by Cubs' right fielder Kosuke Fukudome and failed to score from second on a Ray Durham double off the wall. And the Brewers had runners at second and third with no one out in the 12th -- and failed to score. It was one of those games that could haunt a franchise for a long, long time.
Johan Santana won for the Mets on Thursday and now has a 15-game unbeaten streak (he's 7-0 in that time). He could pitch twice more if the Mets, who trail the Phillies by a half-game in the NL East, really need him.
Seen on Brewcrewball during the game, from poster Rendezvous. "Excuse me while I punch myself in the face. Several times. Or drink myself to sleep."