Phillies

Behind grand slam, Aaron Altherr, Phillies take down Clayton Kershaw, MLB-best Dodgers

Behind grand slam, Aaron Altherr, Phillies take down Clayton Kershaw, MLB-best Dodgers

BOX SCORE

There was no way the Phillies were winning this game, right? Seriously, best team in the majors against one of the worst. Nick Pivetta carried a 6.75 ERA into his start — that's the fifth-highest ever by a Phillies pitcher in a season in which he'd pitched at least 110 innings — and he was facing one of the best pitchers in the game in Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw at Citizens Bank Park on Monday night.

Kershaw, a three-time National League Cy Young award winner, entered with the best ERA in the majors — 2.12 — and he'd allowed just one run in 31 innings in his previous four starts against the Phillies.

What's more, five players in the Phillies' lineup had never faced Kershaw, and usually, the advantage goes to the pitcher in those situations.

So what happens?

The Phillies win the game, 4-3, and one of those players who'd never faced Kershaw accounts for all the runs with a grand slam, the first one that Kershaw has allowed in his career (see observations).

"That's obviously pretty special to be the first one to do that," said Aaron Altherr, who provided the grand slam in the bottom of the sixth inning. It turned a 2-0 Phillies' deficit into a 4-2 lead.

"I definitely don't take it for granted. He's obviously a really good pitcher. I just thank God I was able to get a pitch to hit."

"You try to make it just another game when you face him, but deep down you know it's really not because of how good he is and how good he's been over the years. He's a future Hall of Famer. So it's definitely awesome to be able to play against a guy like that."

And beat him.

"Boy, that was fun, any time you beat Kershaw, it’s really nice to see," manager Pete Mackanin said.

Kershaw is now 17-4 with a 2.26 ERA.

While Altherr's grand slam was the big blow, it wasn't the only important contribution from the Phillies' side.

Pivetta (6-10) allowed a pair of solo homers on the first five pitches of the game — one was a leadoff, inside-the-park homer to Chris Taylor — but settled down nicely and followed with five scoreless innings to give his team a chance.

Pivetta, who'd allowed 13 runs in 10 innings in his previous two starts, gave up just two hits (both singles) and a walk after the first inning. He finished with eight strikeouts. His stingy work over his final five innings kept the Phillies in the game until Altherr's heroics with two outs in the sixth.

"The thing I like about him is he really thinks he’s good, he really believes in himself," Mackanin said of Pivetta. "He didn’t quit and he keeps battling, that’s the thing I like about him the most, along with his stuff."

The Phillies' decisive sixth inning against Kershaw started with a pinch-hit walk by Ty Kelly and included a one-out single by Freddy Galvis and a two-out, full-count walk by Rhys Hoskins. Altherr followed with his grand slam.

"It was nice to do something like that but it honestly wasn't all me," Pivetta said. "I wouldn't have gotten that win if Altherr hadn't hit that grand slam and it wouldn't even have started if Ty didn't get that walk and Freddy didn't get that hit and we didn't get another walk, so the guys putting up good ABs in that situation was really nice to see. This win goes out to the team around me and not just me. I mean, yes, I put in five shutout innings after that, but just having those guys pick me up at the end, I think that's what really contributed to this win. It was a nice little boost because I haven't been doing the best lately."

Altherr's grand slam came on a hanging, 1-1 slider. It came off the bat at 107 mph and landed 418 feet from home plate in the second deck above left field.

"I was just telling myself not to get beat," Altherr said. "The first two at-bats, I got jammed. I just wanted to make sure I got the head out. I think he threw me a slider again. I was finally able to get the barrel to it."

The bullpen made the lead stand up, though Hector Neris allowed a solo homer to Curtis Granderson in the ninth to make it a one-run game. Back on April 29, Neris allowed three ninth-inning homers to blow a lead at Dodger Stadium. It was one of the Phillies' worst losses of the season.

"I thought about that right at the start of the inning," Mackanin admitted. "I’m sure he was thinking about it. But the thing I liked about him is he looked like he was eager to go right after the hitters, even when he gave up the home run, he didn’t back off. He went right after them, which was nice to see."

MLB Playoffs: Javier Baez snaps out of funk to help Cubs avoid sweep

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MLB Playoffs: Javier Baez snaps out of funk to help Cubs avoid sweep

CHICAGO -- Javier Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and the Chicago Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

Jake Arrieta pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning to held the defending World Series champion Cubs close their deficit to 3-1. Manager Joe Maddon got ejected for the second time in this series in the eighth, and a packed Wrigley Field crowd watched Davis get Cody Bellinger to ground into a game-ending double play.

Maddon was heavily criticized for not using Davis during a 4-1 loss in Game 2. This time, the Cubs closer threw 48 pitches to finish the job.

Willson Contreras also homered for the Cubs. Bellinger and Justin Turner connected for the Dodgers, who had won a team-record six straight playoff games.

Game 5 is Thursday, with Jose Quintana pitching for Chicago against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (see full recap).

Tanaka, Yankees blank Astros to take ALCS lead
NEW YORK -- Masahiro Tanaka pitched seven innings of three-hit ball and the New York Yankees finally solved Houston Astros nemesis Dallas Keuchel, beating the ace lefty 5-0 on Wednesday for a 3-2 lead in the AL Championship Series.

Gary Sanchez hit an RBI single off Keuchel and later homered to help the wild-card Yankees win for the third straight day at home and move within one victory of their first trip to the World Series since 2009.

The teams head back to Houston for Game 6 on Friday night, when Justin Verlander and the reeling Astros will try to regain their footing following an off day and force a decisive Game 7. Luis Severino is scheduled to start for New York.

Just days ago, Houston was up two games to none and appeared to be closing in on its second World Series appearance. But the Astros, like defending AL champion Cleveland before them, have been unable to put away these poised Yankees, who improved to 6-0 at home in this postseason in front of their cheering, chanting fans (see full recap).

MLB Playoffs: Yankees storm back for win over Astros to even ALCS

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MLB Playoffs: Yankees storm back for win over Astros to even ALCS

NEW YORK -- Aaron Judge ignited a rousing rally with a home run, then doubled during a four-run eighth inning to spur the New York Yankees over the Houston Astros 6-4 Tuesday night and level the AL Championship Series 2-2.

The Yankees trailed 4-0 against starter Lance McCullers Jr. until Judge homered leading off the seventh. He tied it with a line drive that nearly left the park in the eighth and scored on Gary Sanchez's go-ahead two-run double off loser Ken Giles.

The Yankees have rallied from a second straight 0-2 series deficit -- they beat Cleveland in the Division Series by winning three in a row to take that best-of-five matchup.

Aroldis Chapman struck out two in a perfect ninth, and New York improved to 5-0 at home in the playoffs.

Masahiro Tanaka pitches for New York against Dallas Keuchel in Game 5 Wednesday and rematch of the opener, won by the Astros 2-1 (see full recap).

Dodgers on brink of World Series after shutout
CHICAGO -- Yu Darvish pitched sparkling ball into the seventh inning, Chris Taylor homered again and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 6-1 on Tuesday night to open a commanding 3-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.

Andre Ethier also went deep and Taylor added an RBI triple in the fifth as Los Angeles set a franchise record with its sixth consecutive playoff win. Yasiel Puig had two more hits in another entertaining performance that included an impressive bat flip -- on a long foul ball in the first inning.

Looking for a four-game sweep and their 22nd NL pennant, the Dodgers will send Alex Wood to the mound Wednesday night at Wrigley Field with a chance to reach the World Series for the first time since their last championship in 1988. Jake Arrieta, eligible for free agency after the season, pitches for the Cubs in what could be his final start with the team.

Los Angeles was eliminated by Chicago in the NLCS last year, but this is a different group of Dodgers. The lineup is patient and pesky and the pitching staff is much deeper, especially since Darvish was acquired in a trade with Texas in the final minutes before the July 31 deadline (see full recap).