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Posted: Thursday September 25, 2008 3:32PM; Updated: Thursday September 25, 2008 5:27PM
John Donovan John Donovan >
INSIDE BASEBALL

Storylines to watch (cont.)

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Ryan Church
Ryan Church has not been the same player since suffering a concussion at midseason.
BennettCohen/Icon SMI

Stud of the Day

Milwaukee's Stud of the Second Half, CC Sabathia, pitched on short rest for the second consecutive start on Wednesday, and it showed against the Pirates. He struggled through a 28-pitch first inning ... and then settled down enough to strike out 11 in seven innings, allowing only four Pittsburgh hits. The Brewers managed only two hits, but they took advantage of nine walks in a 4-2 win that boosted them into a tie with the Mets in the NL wild-card competition.

Dud of the Day

The Mets' Ryan Church went 0-for-5 in the loss to the Cubs that dropped the Mets into a tie with the Brewers, striking out with men on first and third with no one out in the eighth and hitting a weak fielder's choice ground ball with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth. Church struck out twice and left six runners on base in the 9-6, 10-inning loss. He's hitting .203 this month.

Quote of the Day

"We've got to find a way. We've got to keep pushing, we've got to keep pressing. We've got to find a way."

-- Mets manager Jerry Manuel

What Was He Thinking?

Walking the bases loaded to try to get a groundball is a last-ditch kind of strategy at best. Cubs skipper Lou Piniella -- who may end up being your NL Manager of the Year -- had the decision backfire on him on Wednesday when he instructed rookie reliever Jeff Samardzija to walk the bases loaded in the eighth inning against the Mets with the Cubs ahead, 6-5. Samardzija then walked Ramon Martinez on five pitches to force in the tying run.

Interestingly enough, Piniella went right back to the same strategy after Bobby Howry gave up a leadoff triple to Daniel Murphy to lead off the bottom of the ninth. Howry struck out David Wright, intentionally filled the bases with a couple of walks, got a weak ground ball from Church and then struck out Ramon Castro with a fastball around the eyes.

The difference: Having a rookie (Samardzija) try to pull it off instead of a veteran (Howry). Makes all the difference in the world.

Line Drives

• The Twins, by the way, have Kansas City at home this weekend after that critical last game with the ChiSox on Thursday. The White Sox have three at home against the Indians.

• NL wild-card watchers, remember: The Brewers, now in a tie for the card with their win over Pittsburgh, have had it easy with the Pirates, but they play them for the last time on Thursday. Then over the weekend the big, bad Cubs come into town. The Mets host the Marlins.

• Yeah, a three-way wild-card tie is a possibility. If that happens the Mets and Phillies would play on Monday, with the victor claiming the NL East title. The loser would play Milwaukee on Tuesday, with the winner becoming the wild card.

• If you have that much trouble scoring a guy from third with no one out with the game on the line -- in three straight innings... well, maybe the Mets just don't deserve this. I can understand the seventh inning, when Murphy hit a screaming line drive to Derrek Lee that the first baseman turned into an easy double play. Bad luck. I might even overlook third base coach Luis Aguayo being too conservative on a hard hit ball to the gap and holding Carlos Delgado at third with no outs in the eighth. (Delgado eventually scored on a bases-loaded walk.) But that ninth was brutal. Inexcusable.

• In short, as Mets manager Manuel said after the game, you can blame the bullpen all you want. But with all the chances the Mets had to score on Wednesday night, this one isn't on the 'pen.

• How can the Mets pretend to trust Oliver Perez, who walked five in lasting only 4 1/3 innings against the Cubs on Wednesday? Easy answer: You can't.

• Finally, according to the Philadelphia Daily News, a police bomb squad was called in to detonate three strange packages at Citizens Bank Park before the Phillies' game on Wednesday against the Braves. Turns out the packages were the wrapped hot dogs that the Phillie Phanatic shoots into the crowd. The Phillies then laid a bomb, losing 10-4.

 
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