Against all odds, Cameron Rupp, Phillies rally to salvage game vs. Rockies

Against all odds, Cameron Rupp, Phillies rally to salvage game vs. Rockies


DENVER — When Colorado Rockies closer Greg Holland took the mound in the ninth Sunday, it seemed he was going to simply add to the Phillies’ misfortune.

They had just had a runner thrown out at home in the eighth. And Charlie Blackmon’s go-ahead, two-out double in the seventh off Aaron Nola gave the Rockies a 2-1 lead after a blatantly bad ball-strike call went against Nola that changed the nature of the at-bat.

So on came Holland for the ninth, the best closer in the majors this year. He had converted 34 of 35 save opportunities and took the mound with a 1.56 ERA (40⅓ innings, seven earned runs) and 18 walks, 53 strikeouts, 23 hits allowed and opponents batting a mere .168 against him.

Those gaudy numbers largely explain why the Rockies were 59-0 when leading after eight innings, the longest such streak to start a season in franchise history.

Odubel Herrera opened the ninth with a single to short center, a hit on an 0-2 slider that he hustled into a double.

“He’s been criticized for lack of hustle,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said after the Phillies' 3-2 win (see Instant Replay). “But for him to take the extra base was outstanding and good to see.”

Herrera moved to third on a single by Maikel Franco, whose homer in the second tied the game at one. Hyun Soo Kim hit a grounder to shortstop Trevor Story, who was playing back and threw out Herrera at the plate. Herrera hesitated before heading home.

“First and third, you’re on third base, you have to go,” Mackanin said. "Because if they get a double play, you don’t want to be standing at third with two outs. He hesitated for the simple reason that he didn’t know if the pitcher was going to catch it.”

Cameron Rupp, who had been easily thrown out in the eighth trying to score from first on pinch hitter Andres Blanco’s double that rattled around the left-field corner, then drove Holland’s first-pitch slider into the gap in left-center, scoring Franco and Kim.

“It was a quick at-bat,” Rupp said. “He hung a slider, left it out over the plate, I drove it to the gap.”

Holland said he had a chance at 0-2 on Herrera “to throw a couple pitches the guy couldn’t put the bat on.” Instead, Holland threw what he termed “a pretty good pitch” that Herrera put in play to begin the rally.

“But the two-run double was a pitch where I thought he was looking to swing early in the count,” Holland said. “My thought was to throw a borderline pitch and see if he would chase. It was a little too good.”

The Rockies put runners on first and second with two outs in the ninth, but closer Hector Neris got Blackmon to ground to first.

Blackmon’s two-out double in the seventh gave the Rockies a 2-1 lead against Nola, who saw a certain 0-2 count vanish. With the count 0-1 on Blackmon, pinch hitter Raimel Tapia, who had walked, stole second base. Before the pitch, Blackmon stepped out of the batter's box to call time, which home plate umpire Carlos Torres didn’t grant.

The pitch to Tapia was down the middle, but Torres called it a ball, meaning Nola was 1-1 rather than 0-2 on Blackmon much to the disbelief of catcher Rupp.

“After I threw the ball, and I looked at the scoreboard and it said 1-1,” Rupp said. “I said, ‘You called that a ball?’

“He goes, ‘Yeah.’

“I said, ‘How, it was right down the middle?’ I guess when I came up to throw, I blocked his vision.”

With the count 3-1 to Blackmon, Nola threw a changeup that Blackmon drove into the gap in left-center. And then Rupp was thrown out at home in the eighth. And then Herrera was thrown out at home in the ninth against the vaunted Holland.

After five straight losses on their current trip, the Phillies seemed to be staring at yet another defeat, which was going to be followed by a glum flight to Atlanta where they will be off before playing Tuesday.

“It’s nice to salvage a win out of this series,” Mackanin said. “But it’s even nicer winning on a getaway day with an off day the next day, so you got more time to savor it.”

MLB Playoffs: Verlander, Astros beat Yankees to force Game 7 in ALCS

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MLB Playoffs: Verlander, Astros beat Yankees to force Game 7 in ALCS


HOUSTON — Justin Verlander remained perfect with Houston, pitching seven shutout innings when the team needed him most, and Jose Altuve homered and drove in three runs as the Astros extended the AL Championship Series to a decisive Game 7 with a 7-1 win over the New York Yankees on Friday night.

Acquired in an Aug. 31 trade, Verlander has won all nine outings with the Astros. And with his new club facing elimination in Game 6 against the Yankees, he delivered again.

After striking out 13 in a complete-game victory in Game 2, Verlander threw another gem. The right-hander scattered five hits and struck out eight to improve to 9-0 with 67 strikeouts since being traded from Detroit. George Springer helped him out of a jam in the seventh, leaping to make a catch at the center-field wall and rob Todd Frazier of extra bases with two on and Houston up 3-0.

Game 7 is Saturday night in Houston, with the winner advancing to the World Series against the NL champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

Dusty Baker fired by Nationals after 2 NL East titles


Dusty Baker fired by Nationals after 2 NL East titles

WASHINGTON -- Dusty Baker's time as the manager of the Washington Nationals is over after two seasons, two NL East titles and zero playoff series victories.

The Nationals announced Friday that they would not be bringing Baker back. His two-year deal with the club is expiring.

The contracts for the members of Baker's coaching staff also are finished. The team said it will work with its new manager to fill those positions.

The moves come the week after Washington was eliminated from its NL Division Series against the Chicago Cubs with a 9-8 loss at home in Game 5. The Nationals also were bounced from the postseason in the NLDS round in 2016 -- also with a Game 5 loss at home by one run, that time against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

This outcome, essentially, is what Baker was worried about as far back as spring training in February, when he made clear his desire for a new contract, knowing his was up after 2017.

Before the series against the Cubs began, Baker was asked about his possible future in Washington.

"I've given some thought to some things, but we were told that we were waiting until after the season to make a determination," he said at the time. "There's a good chance I'll be back."

He expected negotiations to pick up after the season ended (see full story).

Turner, Taylor repay Dodgers' patience by sharing NLCS MVP
CHICAGO -- Justin Turner and Chris Taylor shared MVP honors in the NL Championship Series, repaying a Dodgers organization willing to roll the dice on players whose big league careers were stalled.

In Turner's case, it was then-bench coach Tim Wallach who rediscovered him playing in a Cal State-Fullerton alumni baseball game four years ago, after his career appeared all but over.

In Taylor's case, it was Los Angeles' willingness to gamble that an offseason of grueling workouts would enable the young utilityman to rebuild his swing in a matter of months.

The co-MVPs turned up in the interview room together after the Dodgers eliminated the reigning World Series champion Chicago Cubs 11-1 in Game 5. They were champagne-soaked with hats turned backward, a pair of goggles still perched on Turner's head. Fittingly, they doused each other with praise.

"He's a dynamic player and a table setter," said Turner, who hit .333 for the series, with two home runs and seven RBIs. "When he goes, we usually go as a team."

"I talk to him as much as I can. He's one of the reasons I decided to make the changes I did," said Taylor, who finished at .316 with two homers and three RBIs. Both men also walked five times, as many as the entire Cubs roster (see full story).

Rare Jackie Robinson rookie jersey up for auction
NEW YORK -- A rare jersey from Jackie Robinson's historic rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers 70 years ago could be available for someone with a few spare millions.

The jersey, part of a Heroes of Sports offering by Heritage Auctions, has been certified by Mears, one of the top memorabilia authentication companies. It is accompanied by a letter from Robinson's widow, Rachel, saying it is the one brought home by the Hall of Famer at the end of the 1947 season, when he became the first black player in the majors and earned Rookie of the Year honors.

"This is the only one known from the `47 season, the only one that survived," Chris Ivy, Heritage's director of sports auctions, told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "It stayed in his closet for five decades plus until it was eventually sold to a private collector in the early 2000s."

The online auction opened Friday and closes at 11 p.m. on Nov. 19. The entire collection is from one owner and can be viewed on Heritage's website. Other items available for bidding include Babe Ruth's pants from the Hall of Fame induction in 1939, Keith Hernandez's 1978 Gold Glove award, a Wilt Chamberlain jersey from 1966, Bill Vukovich's Indianapolis 500 trophy from 1953 and Muhammad Ali's shoes from his fight against Ken Norton in 1973.

Ivy said the Robinson jersey has been valued at more than $3 million. He wouldn't be surprised to see it exceed that.

"It's tough to estimate a piece like this -- it's a one of a kind," he said. "As far as collectibles a rookie (jersey) is always sought after, something that's significant."