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Scott Pianowski

Closing Time: Kerry Wood blows one in Philly

Scott Pianowski
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The soul of Closing Time is the ninth inning, and that's where we'll put our focus as we run through some bulletry tied to the Wednesday night slate.

The ball was jumping at Citizens Bank Park, with the Phillies getting the last word on the Indians. Jimmy Rollins(notes) flipped the result in the bottom of the ninth with a two-run walk-off shot against Kerry Wood(notes); the Indians (and fantasy owners) would love to see Wood have an extended period of success simply to enhance his trade value, but Wood hasn't been able to do that since returning from his back woes. Stay loose, Chris Perez(notes).

I like most of the primary Philly bats as potential buy-lows, but the window could be closing fast on most of these guys. Jayson Werth(notes) has three homers in his last seven games (including one Wednesday) and don't discount how much better this offense becomes simply by getting Rollins back in the mix.

The Arizona pitching staff walked a tightrope for most of the evening against the Yankees, but eventually New York pushed across just enough offense to take the game in 10 innings. Dontrelle Willis(notes) had another train wreck out front (2.1 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 7 BB, 2 K) and needed 67 pitches to record seven crummy outs. Intriguing sleeper Sam Demel(notes) (five outs, three whiffs) and Juan Gutierrez(notes) (scoreless inning, 2 H, 2 K) bridged things to the ninth but Aaron Heilman(notes) couldn't lock it down – the Yanks got a pair of walks to open the inning and eventually tied the game on Alex Rodriguez's(notes) sacrifice fly.

Curtis Granderson's(notes) homer in the 10th gave the Yankees the lead for good, making a winner out of Mariano Rivera(notes) (two scoreless innings). Give a hat tip to Joe Girardi, who had the stones to use his best reliever aggressively. Not a lot of managers will use their closer in the bottom of the ninth on the road in a tie game, but Girardi didn't let the save rule hold him back here.

Matt Lindstrom(notes) hadn't given us a clean ninth inning in almost three weeks, so his save against the Giants on Wednesday came at the right time. Lindstrom also collected two punchouts in his inning of work, the first time he's done that since May 27. The Astros would be wise to shop this guy around; perhaps the 16 saves and 3.07 ERA look good to some potential shoppers, but he's also carrying a 1.60 WHIP around and his strikeout rate isn't quite where you want it to be for this gig, especially when you tie it to his mediocre control. I'm not saying Lindstrom is the worst closer in the game – heck, I took him as a cheap investment in a lot of places this year – but I know a replaceable player when I see one.

R.A. Dickey's(notes) Cinderella Story keeps rolling merrily along. The knuckling journeyman threw eight bagels at the Tigers on Wednesday (4 H, 2 BB, 4 K) and has been useful (if not zesty) in all seven of his starts this year. This looks like one of those streaks where you hitch a ride, but bail at the first sign of distress. Dickey gets a meeting with Florida next week, a team that's already seen him once this year.

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Ricky Nolasco's(notes) ongoing gopher problem struck early at Baltimore (Luke Scott(notes) and Adam Jones(notes) took him over the bridge in the second inning) but it was smooth sailing from that point out and the final Nolasco line was quite useful (7 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 8 K, plus a victory). This might make for a good selling window for Nolasco owners; keep in mind his strikeout rate has tumbled since last season, he's seen a spike to his fly-ball rate and he's giving up all those round-trippers. A home start next week against the Mets looks benign enough, but Nolasco isn't the ace he's commonly made out to be. Get the word out that you want to move a pitcher and see if your opponents lead themselves to Nolasco.

Stephen Strasburg(notes) gave us another fun afternoon, working six sharp innings against the Royals (9 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 9 K). Strasburg hit the zone in 75 of his 95 pitches and worked his way out of a handful of jams. Alas, the Nats couldn't go a thing against Brian Bannister(notes), Robinson Tejeda(notes) and Joakim Soria(notes), so it goes down as a 1-0 loss. The next Strasburg party comes next week at Atlanta.

Other Handshakes: Francisco Cordero(notes) isn't in the middle of his best year (4.11 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, five blown saves), but with 19 conversions and 32 strikeouts, it hasn't been a total loss. He got the final three outs in Oakland, supporting Johnny Cueto(notes).Ryan Franklin(notes) worked around an infield single and a walk at Toronto, with a key double play in the middle of the frame. Chris Carpenter(notes) worked eight scoreless innings at the start, outdueling Ricky Romero(notes).Heath Bell(notes) allowed an unearned run but otherwise it was a happy ending for the Padres at Tampa Bay. … Matt Harrison(notes) got a cheap save in Texas, working three innings in a blowout victory. … Everyone loves to pile on Bobby Jenks(notes) but he's quietly got 11 save conversions in a row. … John Axford(notes) wasn't perfect against Minnesota (two baserunners, one run), but he was working with a three-run lead and that's not a tough assignment. The Axman probably needs a day off Thursday, which means Trevor Hoffman(notes) might get a look if Milwaukee holds a late lead. … Words won't adequately describe how lucky Brian Fuentes(notes) was Wednesday night – just watch the video. … No handshake for Jonathan Papelbon(notes); the high-strung Hub closer allowed two homers at Colorado (Ian Stewart(notes), Jason Giambi(notes)) then walked off the field. Papelbon's overall numbers aren't bad for 2010, but he's easily having his worst season by his established standards. It will be interesting to see if Papelbon gets a huge paycheck after the season, given that Daniel Bard(notes) looks ready to step into the ninth. … Leo Nunez(notes) needed just nine pitches to put away the Orioles.

Speed Round: Brian Matusz(notes) worked into the seventh inning against Florida but when you allow six runs and strike out just three men, you're not really helping us. I'm not interested until the post-hype period of Matusz's career begins. … Toronto's top three hitters from Wednesday's lineup (Wise, Hill, Lind) are hitting .167, .187 and .207, respectively. Okay, batting average may be an overrated stat, but that looks strange now that we're into the late stages of June. The Toronto Hack Attack has hid the skids this month, scoring just 62 runs in 19 June games (only Baltimore has done worse). … The Rangers, as you probably know, are far and away the highest scoring team in the majors for June. Texas won its tenth straight game Wednesday, plastering the Pirates with 13 runs and 17 hits. … Carlos Quentin(notes), anyone? He's got five multiple-hit games in his last seven starts, and three homers over the past two days.

Michael Cuddyer(notes) has made four appearances at third base and is open to manning the position going forward. … No one claimed Edwin Encarnacion(notes) on waivers, so he's still Toronto's property at Triple-A. … Fredi Gonzalez was fired by the Marlins Wednesday; Edwin Rodriguez steps in as the interim replacement. There's talk that the Marlins are interested in Bobby Valentine as the full-time solution, and you'll also hear Gonzalez mentioned as a possible replacement for Bobby Cox. … Alfredo Simon(notes) received the dreaded "non-save situation inning of work" on Wednesday, with predictable results (four hits, one run). David Hernandez(notes) worked in front of him, retiring five of six men and striking out three. … Cliff Lee(notes) meandered through a complete-game victory against the Cubs, allowing one run, scattering nine hits and striking out nine. Lee now has an absurd strikeout/walk rate of 76/4. How did the Phillies ever let this guy go so cheaply?

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