Phillies

Best of MLB: AL East race getting interesting between Yankees, Red Sox

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USA Today Images

Best of MLB: AL East race getting interesting between Yankees, Red Sox

NEW YORK -- Twelve minutes into Aaron Hicks' return from 3 weeks on the disabled list, Tampa Bay had loaded the bases in the first inning when Wilson Ramos drove a changeup toward the Yankees' bullpen in right-center field.

"Oh, gosh," New York rookie left-hander Jordan Montgomery thought to himself on the mound.

Hicks raced from center to the 385-foot sign and leaped to get his glove above the wall. He snagged the ball in the webbing, squeezed it tight and limited Ramos to a sacrifice fly with his Hollywood grab.

After nearly falling behind on a grand slam, the playoff-bound Yankees beat the Rays 6-1 Tuesday night to clinch home-field advantage if they end up in the AL wild-card game next week (see full recap).

Sale gives up 4 HRs, Red Sox lose to Jays
BOSTON -- Chris Sale has had a few setbacks as Boston has rolled down the stretch and back toward the postseason.

Tuesday was another one of those nights.

Sale matched a career worst by giving up four home runs in a playoff tuneup, including a pair to Josh Donaldson, and the Red Sox lost 9-4 to the Toronto Blue Jays.

"You can't have a good day at work every day," Sale said. "Unfortunately, what I do is amplified because we're here and we're in the thick of it. To survive, you've got to win games. I'm not doing that, and I'm as frustrated as anybody on the planet about that."

Boston's magic number over the Yankees in the AL East is three with five games remaining (see full recap).

Cardinals deny Cubs from clinching
ST. LOUIS -- Tommy Pham and Randal Grichuk homered and drove in two runs each and the St. Louis Cardinals denied the Chicago Cubs a chance at clinching the NL Central with an 8-7 victory Tuesday night.

Matt Carpenter and Jedd Gyorko also homered for St. Louis, which remains 2 1/2 games behind the second Wild Card spot. Zach Duke (1-1) got the win with 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. Juan Nicasio earned his fifth save.

The Cubs were seeking to clinch the Central division with either a win or a Milwaukee loss against Cincinnati, but the Brewers beat the Reds 7-6.

Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez allowed three runs (two earned) and four hits in 4 1/3 innings. Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta (14-10) allowed five runs (three earned) and six hits in three innings, his second shortest outing this season (see full recap).

Twins rally past Indians, close in on WC
CLEVELAND -- When Brian Dozier's home run cleared the right-field wall, Minnesota's dugout burst into joyous celebration with players excitedly bouncing off each other.

The turn-around Twins are just one win from the playoffs.

Dozier's three-run homer in the eighth inning pushed Minnesota to the brink of the postseason as the Twins, with manager Paul Molitor using a club record 10 pitchers, rallied for an 8-6 victory over Cleveland on Tuesday night, handing the Indians just their third loss in 32 games.

Dozier connected for his 33rd homer against Bryan Shaw (4-6) as the Twins, a 103-loss team in 2016, lowered their magic number for clinching a playoff berth to one (see full recap).

Morphine found in Roy Halladay's system before fatal plane crash

Morphine found in Roy Halladay's system before fatal plane crash

Roy Halladay had morphine in his system when the plane he was piloting crashed and he tragically died in November, according to Halladay's autopsy report, released Friday.

Zolpidem, the generic name for Ambien, and amphetamines were also found in Halladay's system.

As TMZ points out via the Food and Drug Administration, the amount of Zolpidem found in Halladay's system (72 ng/ml) is more than enough to impair a driver and increase the risk of an accident.

Halladay had a blood alcohol content of 0.01, according to the autopsy report. 

The official cause of Halladay's death was blunt force trauma, with drowning a contributing factor.

The crash took place on Nov. 7 in the Gulf of Mexico, with more details emerging in a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board two weeks later.

Nick Williams talks up Phillies to a free-agent Cy Young winner

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Nick Williams talks up Phillies to a free-agent Cy Young winner

It's not clear whether the Phillies will add a starting pitcher before opening day, but surely they would like to.

General manager Matt Klentak “is busting his ass every single day looking for every possible opportunity to upgrade our team from every perspective,” manager Gabe Kapler said on Tuesday. “That includes looking at every option possible for the rotation.”

Klentak has kept a close eye on the trade market, but has found the prices (i.e., the young talent that must be surrendered) for top, controllable starters to be prohibitive.

He has kept a close eye on the free-agent market, but the length of contracts that top pitchers are looking for has given him pause.

For months, the Phillies have distanced themselves from speculation that has connected them to elite level free-agent pitchers Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta.

But with spring training less than a month away and both pitchers still unsigned, the Phillies would at least have to consider both pitchers if their asking prices experience a January thaw.

Six or seven years? No way.

Three years? Hmmm. Let's talk.

The Phillies are hosting a number of their young players this week. Rhys Hoskins, Jerad Eickhoff, Mark Leiter and Nick Williams were all in town on Tuesday.

Williams has set his sights on making the National League All-Star team in 2018.

“That's what I'm shooting for,” he said at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday. “I think I had a pretty good year last year. I'm shooting for more now. I don't think being an All-Star is shooting too high.”

Williams, 24, hit .288 with 12 homers, 55 RBIs and an .811 OPS in 83 games, mostly in right field, with the big club as a rookie last season.

To give himself the best chance of surpassing those numbers — and achieving his goal of making the All-Star team — Williams has spent the offseason in Austin, Texas, working with personal trainer Jeremy Hills, a former University of Texas football player.

Williams is working hard on agility, which will help him in the outfield and on the base paths.

And guess who one of his daily workout partners is?

Free-agent pitcher Jake Arrieta.

Back in Austin, between reps and protein shakes, Williams has occasionally talked up Philadelphia as a potential landing spot to Arrieta, the 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner who will turn 32 in March.

“He loves it here,” Williams said of Arrieta, who, as a free agent and a Scott Boras client, is astute enough not to rule out any team, particularly one as deep-pocketed as the Phillies. “He has told me he likes working with young guys. I'm like, ‘All right, come on up.’ But I'm not writing the check. I don’t know what he wants. I don’t really dig into that because I'm not really in his position.”

Williams smiled.

“I hope to be one day,” he said.

Williams marveled at Arrieta's work ethic in the gym.

And he expressed gratitude for the kindness and generosity Arrieta has showed him.

“He's bought a lot of my protein shakes,” Williams said.

Time will tell if the Phillies add a starting pitcher to the group that already consists of Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin and other youngsters. The hunch is they will, though it's unclear what the magnitude of that talent will be. Klentak's search for an arm likely won't stop with the addition of one pitcher and it will likely continue through July. And beyond. The quest to build a championship-caliber staff never stops.

“The pursuit is very real,” Kapler said of Klentak's search for pitching. “I have a lot of trust that we'll either go in [to spring training] with a new toy or we will pass on the opportunity because we're better off giving this collection of pitchers a really healthy look because we thought that we could go acquire that piece a little bit later on this season or in the offseason next year.”