When the Mariners' Ryan Langerhans connected for a game-winning homer in the 11th inning against Tampa Bay on Aug. 7, it seemingly sent...
When the Mariners’ Ryan Langerhans connected for a game-winning homer in the 11th inning against Tampa Bay on Aug. 7, it seemingly sent Rays pitcher J.P. Howell into a downward spiral.
Until that point, Howell had solidified an area that had been a problem for the Rays once closer Troy Percival went on the disabled list, likely never to return.
After becoming the closer in mid-June, Howell had gone 4-0 with 10 consecutive saves, a 1.64 earned-run average and six walks in 22 innings.
But after Langerhans’ two-run homer at Safeco Field on a 2-2, two-out pitch that turned a 6-5 Rays lead into a 7-6 loss, he has faltered.
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Howell has blown two more save opportunities since then (most recently Wednesday against Toronto), and has a 4.50 ERA and five walks in six innings.
“Terrible feeling,” Howell told the St. Petersburg Times after the loss to the Blue Jays. “This is as bad as it gets as a relief pitcher. Everyone does so much work to get there and you just want to get out of there. It’s a funny game, man.”
Lidge’s struggling puts
Phillies in tough spot
If Brad Lidge continues to falter as closer, the Phillies will have to at least think about making a change as the playoffs approach.
Last year, Lidge was one of the biggest reasons Philadelphia won the World Series, converting all 48 of his save opportunities in the regular and postseason.
But this year, he has already blown nine, and his ERA heading into the weekend was 7.33. That’s scary for a team that has all the other pieces needed for a repeat.
The Phillies are in a ticklish situation, because Lidge is in the first season of a three-year, $37.5 million deal. But they do have a replacement candidate: Brett Myers.
Myers opened the season as the No. 2 starter before undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip on June 4. Now he’s on a rehab stint in Class AA and on Wednesday struck out five in two innings.
The Phillies’ rotation is already bulging with the additions of Cliff Lee and Pedro Martinez. But remember: Myers was their closer in 2007, loved the role, and was fairly successful (21 saves in 24 opportunities).
Notes and quotes
• Speaking of the Phillies, when Raul Ibanez went on the disabled list with a groin injury, he was among the league leaders in runs batted in with 59 in 62 games. Entering the weekend, Ibanez had driven in four runs in 21 games in August — three of them coming on one swing, a three-run homer.
• The Orioles plan to devise a strategy for limiting the number of innings thrown by their young starters in the next month.
The Orioles have four rookies in their rotation — Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, David Hernandez and Jason Berken. According to the Baltimore Sun, the team is considering shutting down Matusz and Tillman, who are nearing career highs in innings; going to a six-man rotation; or limiting them to a certain number of innings each remaining start no matter what.
• Could the honeymoon be over for Manny Ramirez in Los Angeles? He was booed loudly last week after two misplays in left field. Ramirez’s power has vanished since he came back from his suspension. He has just one homer and five RBI in his last 70 at-bats.
• Pirates general manager Neal Huntington confirmed the team will call up ex-Mariner Jeff Clement when the rosters expand on Tuesday.
Clement, acquired in the trade that sent Jack Wilson and Ian Snell to the Mariners, is playing for Class AAA Indianapolis. In 25 games, he hit .221 with seven homers and 22 RBI.
Clement, by the way, has been playing exclusively first base as his prospects of making it in the majors as a catcher continue to fade.
“He’s working hard every day at Indianapolis with [manager] Frank Kremblas and [hitting coach] Jeff Branson, and he is getting better,” Huntington told reporters. “He’ll also have a chance to spend a month with us in the major leagues working with [infielder instructor and first-base coach] Perry Hill.”
• Mark Reynolds of Arizona already holds the major-league record for strikeouts in a season with 204. He could reach a more positive milestone this year by becoming the first player to ever have 50 homers and 30 stolen bases in the same season. Entering Friday, he had 39 homers and 21 steals.
• From July 1 until the Cardinals’ loss Thursday in a game started by Chris Carpenter, St. Louis had gone 28-3 in games started by Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Joel Pineiro.