Around the NL East - Stephen Strasburg, NL's best, Bryce Harpermania, Heath Bell's job in jeopardy, Subway Series in danger

A lot of players claim to leave it all out on the field, but why does Chipper Jones seem so different?

Initially, I wanted to pick some fun at Bryce Harper, for his debut in Los Angeles, and primarily the theatric way he flipped his helmet off while running to second on a double. And how it was the equivalent of the guy in the late Bernie Mac's Mr. 3000 movie, doing a shimmy, shake and dance before touching home plate after hitting one out, "for next year's video game."

But then Chipper Jones had to go out and do something extraordinary and take the words right out of my mouth.

I started watching the game at the place I play trivia every Wednesday night, and I admit to forcing myself to stop looking when it got to be 6-0; after all, with Roy Halladay on the mound, there was a high probability it was going to be another Halladay CGSHO smothering, and I would have rather not seen it happen. Naturally, no matter how dismal things seem, if there's a live Braves game accessible by any means, I'll still look, preparing to scoff at the situation, but then I see that the score is stupendously tied up at 6-6. After I picked my jaw off the floor, I whipped out the old phone to see how it happened:

B. McCann homered to right, T. Pastornicky, M. Bourn, M. Prado scored. PHI 6, ATL 6

Good old mobile summary - completely removes all magnitude from the situation, when I was really hoping it would say something like:

HEAP SLAM OFF HALLADAY, BASES EMPTY, GAME TIED, B****

At this point, my non-sports fan team snapped at me for not paying attention, so I tore myself away, thinking it's for the best that I don't watch. But naturally, that wouldn't last long. I cringed when I checked again and the Braves were down 12-8 in the 8th inning, and my heart sank when I checked the summary, and the Braves actually had an 8-6 lead at one point, before Carlos Ruiz decided to go bonkers:

C. Ruiz goes ape****, all the runs, scored.

When the Braves tied the game up, and ultimately took the lead, I was dumbfounded. There was clearly a very peculiar night on our hands, and I was witnessing it in like every means possible other than being at the park or watching it properly, with sound, and with a cold one(s). I was the happiest person in the world getting into my car to get to listen to Craig Kimbrel try and close out the game. When Shane Victorino did what he does best, spoil things, I realized that there couldn't possibly have been any other way for the insanity to end in just nine innings. I was passing Turner Field when David Ross stepped into the box with two on, one out, feeling envy that I wasn't in the park, but feeling good about David Ross the Boss's chances against a Brian Sanches. Three pitches later, I'm like WTF in my car, proclaiming the at-bat probably Ross's worst one evar for the Braves.

I got home just in time to see of all people, Chad Durbin, mow down the Phillies in the 11th, and was finally in my baseball-watching chair for the bottom half. I wasn't sitting for long, because when Chipper Jones ended the game, I was on my feet, screaming at my television, the cats in my house looking up at me with their own "WTF it's 11 pm, shouldn't you be upstairs" look on their faces. Chipper Jones ending the game, against a key divisional opponent - it's something I shouldn't be surprised at, but this melancholy feeling washed over me, because frankly, I was.

I remember Chipper's last walk-off homer prior to Wednesday's without having to look it up, even before the graphic popped up on the screen. It was against the Marlins, during a period when a relatively unknown guy named Matt Diaz was punishing them like they had killed his parents. But after yet another John Smoltz lead had been blown, and the game went into extras, it was a then-34-year old Chipper Jones launching a mythical three-run dinger to end the game. The left-handed swing was a sweet as ever back then too.

Whenever a walk-off possibility is in play, I often peruse the possible guys that could do it; I was eyeing Heyward, I was eyeing Prado, Freeman. I thought back to the day last year, when Brian McCann tied a game with a homer, and then won it in extras with a homer, and hoped he would do it again. Dan Uggla hit 33 homers last year, and hoped he would hit another one now. But it didn't cross my mind until he stepped to the plate that the old man, good 'ol Chipper Jones, 40 years old, on creaky knees, in spite of the three prior dingers this season, had it in him to deliver heroics one more time; at least not in home run style.

This was one of those times where being wrong feels so good. After it left the yard, and I'm standing in front of my television yelling, the sense that it really couldn't have been any other way, washed over me. I mean seriously, who else could have ended this game? And why didn't I realize this sooner?

Lots of Phillies fans I've seen dismiss Wednesday night, because overall, the Phillies ended up winning the series. Walk-off wins in extras are fluky, because they're often against fringe guys like Brian Sanches. Stuff like that. And after the Braves got shutout to lose the series, I said that it spoils the Chipper walk-off somewhat, but honestly, looking back, that's wrong too. That night was as special of a night and as memorable of a baseball game as they come.

The biggest systematic lineup butcher in baseball in Roy Halladay, dominating for four innings, while a maligned Phillies lineup gives him a big lead. A majestic grand slam from our homegrown All-Star catcher to tie the game. Three lead changes, with the Phillies charging back against Eric O'Flaherty, Kris Medlen and Craig Kimbrel, while Jose Contreras and Michael Schwimer couldn't find the strike zone and gave it right back. Carlos Ruiz having the night of his life. Chad Durbin somehow requiring just eight pitches to complete his inning of work. Chipper's near-miss blast to give everyone a split-second of hope, before two pitches later, ending the game with one that didn't miss. The old guy in the twilight of his career, leaving it all out on the field, gingerly circling the bases, and all his jubilant teammates waiting at home plate, not wanting to mob him too hard, but still wanting to celebrate a fantastic finish.

It wasn't just a normal regular season game. It wasn't spoiled by what would eventually be a series loss. It's the kind of game that fans of both teams talk about for years to come, when we're old men and women, reminiscing about games of yesteryear. When Chipper Jones is inducted into the HOF one day, it'll be one of the clips shown when looking back at his career. If there are ever any montages about a Braves and Phillies rivalry, it'll be one of the games where tons of clips are pulled from. I can't speak for everyone else, but I chalk this up as one of the most memorable games ever, in my life.

Long enough intro? Sure was, I had to put the jump amidst my ramblings, instead of the first link, like I normally do. Oh well. Welcome back to the basement. Cinco de Mayo. Drink responsibly, be safe.

2012was_medium

Stephen Strasburg named NL Pitcher of the Month in April - Nationals Journal
Five starts, 32 innings pitched, 34 strikeouts (9.6 K/9), 5.67 K/BB, 0.875 WHIP, and a 338 ERA+. Yeah, that's kind of a no-brainer.

Ryan Zimmerman throwing again, Brad Lidge has surgery - Nats Insider
The Franchise has been taking grounders and throwing again, and is supposedly on schedule to be back to the Nationals' lineup on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Brad Lidge required some surgery to repair a sports hernia, and he will be out for a few weeks as a result.

Mike Morse hoping for June return - Nats Enquirer
When I first saw this headline, I thought the same thing as they did - 2012, or 2013? But it's definitely 2012, and Morse hopes to get back in during Interleague, so he can be lazy and DH.

Adam LaRoche to be day-to-day with oblique strain - Nationals Journal
:( Poor Roachy just can't seem to get a break sometimes; while diving for a ball at first, he hurt his oblique, and it will likely cause him to miss a few games.

Mark DeRosa goes on DL for sucking, Tyler Moore makes his major league debut - MASN
Lost in the emergence of Bryce Harper is the debut of prospect LF/1B, Tyler Moore, who is called up due to Mark DeRosa's mystery injury. Which is much, much later revealed to be an oblique strain, which was probably made up because they needed to declare some sort of injury.

Danny Espinosa has a fear of the minor leagues - Nationals Journal
The horribly slumping Espinosa finally admitted to teammate Ian Desmond that he just might be pressing, because he's simply afraid of getting demoted. Frankly, a young player simply can't afford to let that kind of stress get to them, because at his current age and number of options left, sometimes it doesn't even take performance to get sent down. The first half of 2011 showed a monster of a player, and at this point, if he can get back to just half that, he won't have to worry about getting demoted again.

Gio Gonzalez apparently needs a barber from Oakland to give him his Will Smith fade - The Bog
Uh, yeah. But I guess when you sign a multi-million dollar extension, stuff like this is doable on a regular basis.

It's really come to this - The Bog
facepalm.jpg. I thought it was bad enough when I saw shirseys available with Twitter handles, Drew Storen has to go out and put them on his glove? Seriously? He's the only person who's going to ever see it legible, unless he throws his glove into the stands after every outing. It's bad enough we need fifty forms of identification to get a passport, imagine the day when they ask what your Twitter handle is too, as official identification.

Now the rest of the Nationals section will be Bryce Harper coverage. Because frankly, it's was difficult enough to find these above links, mired in all of the Bryce Harper coverage.

Pffhh, Heyward's debut was way better - MASN
1-for-3 and a sac fly RBI ain't got nothing on 2-for-5, 4 RBI, and a mythical three-run HR in his first plate appearance.

Somehow, there was a Nats fan in Los Angeles, and he tried to storm the field and run towards Bryce Harper - Nats NQ
Man, people really will do anything to get some screen time out in Los Angeles, won't they? Then again, with the Nationals being so trendy, it doesn't surprise me that people are hopping on their bandwagon, either.

Jayson Werth's astute observation - Nats Insider

"He's a baseball player," teammate Jayson Werth said

Well no s***, Sherlock. As opposed to what? A tight end? Power forward? Goalie? Physical therapist?

Cal Ripken Jr. advocates Bryce Harper's cockiness - The Bog

So he is confident. I’ve had a chance to talk to him. Some would say he’s a little bit cocky. And I would rather have someone that’s a little bit cocky coming to the big leagues, that’s not scared, than someone that’s scared.

Bryce Harper already batting third in the lineup - MASN
With Zimmerman on the DL, LaRoche day-to-day with oblique pain, and no Mike Morse, it's almost out of necessity to put the phenom in the third spot. Who else could it be? Werth? lol.

Bryce Harper plays slow-pitch softball at the Monument, first swing is a humongous whiff - Nats Enquirer
With a day off in between returning from Los Angeles and his home debut, Bryce Harper decided to do some sightseeing. He ran into some softball players, who invited him to play; what could possibly go wrong? My friend texted me and said "I hope playing slow-pitch doesn't ruin his swing like Vlad Guererro."

Again, Heyward's debut was better - The Bog
In attendance, that is. In a park that holds nearly 44,000, Nationals Park drew just over 22,000 for Bryce Harper's home debut. Granted, the weather was calling for some rain, but come on, play the Murphy's Law card, and bring umbrellas; it would never rain then.

2012mia_medium

Is Heath Bell's job already in jeopardy? - Fish Bytes
With three blown saves (a technicality prevented #4), and abysmal performance, Heath Bell is not redeeming himself for the 3/$27M deal he signed to play for Miami. Ozzie says he's sticking with Bell, but frankly, Ozzie says a lot of things.

Like a whole bunch of things in regards to the notion that New Marlins Park is hurting the team - Palm Beach Post

"If they don’t want to hit here, they can call their agent and get traded, because we’re not going to be here and hit in this ballpark,"

They've got the wrong manager if they think that's going to be an excuse. That's unacceptable if they're making that excuse. The ballpark's too big? Too bad. Bunt. That's the way I play.

If that's going to be their excuse, they've got 450 at-bats to clean up this crap. That's it. They've got to clean it up. If not, I will find out how to clean it up.

Not to mention Giancarlo's destiny for manslaughter if/when he breaks out of his slump - Sun Sentinel

That kid will kill one pitcher before the season is over, or a third baseman

New-age Carlos Zambrano shakes off bullpen costing him a win - Fish Bytes
After Heath Bell and Steve Cishek blew Zambrano's lead, Big-Z admits that a few years ago, he would have destroyed some property, and probably threatened someone. But thanks to religion and probably a boatload of anger management courses, Zambrano is eerily supportive of his fallen teammates instead. Weird.

Help is on its way, but will also be delayed an extra two weeks - Marlins Diehards
It's incredible to think that Heath Bell has performed so poorly that Marlins fans are actually pining for the guy formerly known as Leo Nunez. But because of his identity theft, deportation, and arrest, he still has to complete some community service in the D.R. before he can even attempt to get another work visa to come back to the states. However, even still, MLB decided to tack two more weeks onto his six-week suspension, making it an even eight, before he can even be activated.

Ricky Nolasco is one win away from tying franchise record - Fish Bytes
Granted, the Marlins are still but a babe in comparison to the ages of all the other franchises, but it still has meaning to be at the top of any franchise list. Sitting on 67 wins, Ricky Nolasco is just a win away from tying Dontrelle Willis for the franchise record.

Other franchise records that aren't so good however - Sun Sentinel
With a criteria of a minimum of 50 plate appearances, John Buck, Gaby Sanchez and Hanley Ramirez recorded three of the worst April batting averages in team history. And two hits was the difference that kept new Marlin Jose Reyes from joining the club, too.

But hey, at least they're not dying - Marlins Diehards
Unlike the grass at new Marlins Park.

Marlins send Chris Coghlan and Mike Dunn to AAA - Palm Beach Post
Taking the place of the outfielder with creaky knees and the human walk machine is LoMo's best friend, Bryan Petersen, and 25-year old rookie Dan Jennings.

The history of Marlins uniforms - Fish Stripes
As a fan of sports uniforms, I love this piece. A look back at the history of Miami, Florida, and Miami Marlins uniforms throughout their short tenure.

2012nym_medium

Team realignment might cut into the Subway Series - NY Daily News
When the Astros move into the American League in 2013, it's going to put a monkey wrench into Interleague. Personally, I'd rather scrap it altogether, but y'know, money. Anyway, two ideas bouncing around are reducing "rivalry" games to just one three-game series at one team's park, or have two two-game series, one in each park. Either way, it's likely there won't be six Subway Series games anymore next year.

Darryl Strawberry inadvertently puts some pressure on the Mets to keep David Wright - NY Post
After David Wright broke Straw's Mets RBI record, Straw went on record to extol Wright's accomplishments, and made remarks about how he will bring the Mets back from the dead in the distant future. The problem is, Wright is eligible to become a free agent after this year if the Mets don't exercise their one option, or sign him to an extension. If he bolts, that kind of puts a damper on trying to bring the team back from the dead.

Apparently there are some who want Ike Davis platooned, but Terry Collins says no - NY Post
I guess I got so used to seeing Ike Davis teeing off on the Braves that I didn't really notice that he kind of stinks against everyone else this year, and even leading the league in strikeouts with RISP. Regardless of what the omniscient "some" think is best, Terry Collins isn't going to be platooning Ike.

Mike Pelfrey's TJS successful, will probably be non-tendered next year - MetsBlog
Good news for big Pelf, as his surgery was a success. Now begins the year-plus rehabilitation process that will likely make him go stir-crazy in coming months. But because of his inactivity, Pelfrey will likely be non-tendered after the 2012 season, and attempted to be re-signed at much more reasonable rate, exactly how the Peter Moylan situation went down for the Braves.

Mets "cowboy up" for camaraderie - NY Daily News
Since bowling night and playing on the same team isn't enough of each other for the Mets, they decided to dress in their best Western outfits before heading off, to Texas, where they would eventually get swept by the Astros (lol). However, I'm not going to lie, R.A. Tombstone does look kind of badass.

Zack Wheeler sounds like he has a touch of leprosy - MetsBlog
Pitching prospect Zack Wheeler has to go on the DL for a "fingernail avulsion," which MetsBlog is kind enough to translate for us as a fingernail forcibly detached. The scary thing is that this isn't the first time this has happened to the youngster, and although it's not blatant, skin-falling-off leprosy, it seems to think that his nails are slightly more prone to being ripped off than most others.

Manny Acosta sucking gives New York justification to use dated tagline "Manny being Manny" - NY Post
Because it kind of means he's just being himself, which is unfortunately, a below-average reliever with a powerful arm, but pretty much no talent behind it. At this point, putting him on waivers could be a blessing in disguise, because maybe a team like the Phillies or Marlins will pick him up, and tank them instead.

Mr. Met named #1 sports mascot by financial outlet - The Mets Police
It makes sense when Forbes puts out articles about attendance and gate profits, but it seems like out-of-place fluff when they try to subject readers to stuff kind of out of their realm, like sports happenings. I can't imagine it's a very deep pool that this decision was derived from, because Mr. Met and the Philly Phanatic are kind of on their own plane; most other teams don't really have a mascot, or they have random things put in suits slapped with a team jersey on them.

The New Age Mets Fan - Ceetar.com
It's a very long read, but if you've got the time or gumption to read it, it's actually pretty good. Basically, it goes over the varying generations of people who are fans of the Mets today, and the differences of knowledge they have. And that a lot of under-30 Mets fans have no idea of the 1986 World Championship Mets team, or how it actually feels to have seen or known of their team actually being successful.

2012phi_medium

Phillies to take time with Cliff Lee; Ryan Howard beginning rehab - Phillies Nation
Lee will have been eligible to come off the DL on this past Friday, but the Phillies want to play it safe with him and get some bullpen sessions out of him first. Meanwhile, Ryan Howard is now in Clearwater, beginning his rehab program. It's still unclear of when exactly he will be back with the team.

Roy Halladay leaves team on personal matter - Beerleaguer
Nobody knows what exactly this matter is, but it was organized before he started and got shelled by the Braves in the insanity game on Wednesday. Hopefully it's nothing detrimental, but I do like how the writing of the CSN article tries to undermine the Braves' victory by claiming it had something to do with his off-performance because he looked sad in the locker room after the game.

Carlos Ruiz in rare company - Phillies Zone
After driving in 7 RBI in the insanity game, Carlos Ruiz joined a small list of just 19 Phillies to have ever driven in seven or more runs. At this point, if we were to do a series of posts about Braves Killers like so many other sites do, I'm inclined to, without hesitation, say Carlos Ruiz as that team's starting catcher.

David Herndon to DL with elbow inflammation - Phillies Nation
May as well pen in his appointment with Dr. James Andrews. Taking his place on the roster was Brian Sanches, who most are already familiar with as former Marlin, and the guy that gave up the walk-off to Chipper Jones.

Vance Worley's key to early success - TGP
The main reason why Vance Worley has avoided the sophomore slump, is supposedly because of the cut-fastball he's using way more often this season. Doing such breaks the mythical book that everyone has on him, but as it's stated, it's still early, and the book is always be re-written. How long will it last?

The Phillies are walking way less this year - Crashburn Alley
Even if you don't read the actual article, just look at the graph. I know one month's worth of statistics doesn't equal an entire season's, but that's still a red flag if I've ever seen one.

The curious case of Antonio Bastardo - High Cheese
I'm pretty aware of how good Bastardo can be when he's on; I still remember the night when he struck out six consecutive Braves at the home opener in 2011, with nasty, biting stuff. But it kind of sounds like he's kind of falling victim to some coaching dissent. Manuel thinks he needs to be like Chad Durbin, and used more, but pitching coach Rich Dubee simply wants Bastardo executing better. Regardless, such dissent has simply led to Bastardo, not getting used at all.

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