Phillies

Best of MLB: Alex Avila's 9th-inning triple gives Cubs 1-0 win

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Best of MLB: Alex Avila's 9th-inning triple gives Cubs 1-0 win

PITTSBURGH -- Alex Avila knocked an RBI triple in the ninth inning, capping a duel between Jose Quintana and Gerrit Cole and lifting the Chicago Cubs over the Pittsburgh Pirates 1-0 on Wednesday night.

After Cole limited Chicago to two hits over eight innings, Avila scored pinch-runner Leonys Martin from second base with a drive to the right-field corner off reliever Daniel Hudson (2-6).

The only hits against Cole were Javier Baez's infield single in the second and John Jay's single in the eighth.

Quintana struck out six but allowed six hits and had to deal with baserunners in each of his six innings. The Pirates had two men on with no outs in the sixth, but Quintana got Jose Osuna to ground into a double play and a grounder from Sean Rodriguez to end the threat.

Wade Davis struck out two during a perfect ninth for his 29th save, preserving a win for Pedro Strop (4-4) (see full recap).

Nationals beat Marlins for 8th time in a row
MIAMI -- Gio Gonzalez and four relievers combined on a six-hitter, and the Washington Nationals beat the Miami Marlins for the eighth consecutive time, winning 8-1 Wednesday night.

Gonzalez (14-6) pitched five scoreless innings but needed 101 pitches. Ryan Zimmerman hit his 31st homer, and Michael A. Taylor added his 14th.

The Nationals, who completed a three-game sweep, have outscored Miami 53-12 in their past eight meetings. Washington increased its lead in the NL East to 18 games over second-place Miami.

Major league home run leader Giancarlo Stanton went 0 for 3 and is 3 for 35 in the past 10 games. All three hits were homers, leaving him at 53 for the season.

The Marlins have lost nine of their past 10 games to fade from the NL wild-card race. Announced attendance was 14,390, smallest of the year for the second night in a row at Marlins Park. With South Florida bracing for Hurricane Irma, a head count at first pitch put the actual crowd size at 799.

Dillon Peters (0-1) gave up three runs in five innings (see full recap).

Braves, Rangers split doubleheader
ATLANTA -- Freddie Freeman hit a two-run double during Atlanta's five-run second inning against Cole Hamels and the Braves held off a rally to beat the Texas Rangers 5-4 and split a doubleheader Wednesday night.

Nomar Mazara had a two-run homer in the nightcap for Texas, which won the first game 12-8 behind four hits from Elvis Andrus.

The Rangers are two games behind the Twins in the race for the second AL wild card.

Julio Teheran (10-11) earned his second straight home win, allowing three runs, five walks and five hits in five innings in Game 2.

Hamels (9-3) gave up five runs, four earned, in six innings. After facing 10 batters in the second, he allowed only one hit over his next four innings.

Luiz Gohara (0-1), a 21-year-old native of Brazil, allowed six runs in four innings in his major league debut for Atlanta in the first game. Austin Bibens-Dirkx (5-2) threw three scoreless innings in relief for Texas (see full recap).

Carlos Santana is ready to show Maikel Franco the way

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Carlos Santana is ready to show Maikel Franco the way

CLEARWATER, Fla. – The numbering is a little off in the Phillies’ spring training clubhouse. Usually lockers are assigned in numerical sequence, clockwise around the room. But this spring, No. 41 comes immediately after No. 7.

Why?

Because that’s the way Carlos Santana wanted it.

“I told the team that I wanted Maikel Franco right next to me,” the new first baseman said after his first workout with the club Saturday. “That's something that I wanted. I really like him. He's a special kid. I appreciate him a lot. And, not only him, the whole group is nice. But I really want to work with him and help him out.”

Santana, 31, and Franco, 25, are both natives of the Dominican Republic. They bonded this winter. After Santana signed with the Phillies in December, he worked out at the Phillies' academy in the DR with Franco.

It’s no secret this is a big year for Franco (see story). He needs to finally put together his potential or the team may look elsewhere – hello, Manny Machado – for its next third baseman.

Franco’s big area of need is Santana’s area of strength: Plate discipline. Santana walks almost as much as he strikes out. He has registered a career on-base percentage of .365 while averaging 24 homers over the last seven seasons. Franco has pop – he has hit 25 and 24 homers, respectively, the last two seasons – but his career on-base percentage is just .300 after a dip to .281 last season.

Santana has reached at least 100 walks twice in his career and at least 91 four other times. Franco had a career-best 41 walks last season.

Santana praised Victor Martinez for being a mentor to him early in his career. “That’s why I wear No. 41,” he said. Santana wants to be Franco’s Victor Martinez.

“We’re going to work together every single day,” Santana said. “We’re going to make sure he executes the plan he wants to follow. I know he’s a guy that’s very talented and he’s capable of a lot. So I’m going to be there. I’m committed to helping him. I’m going to be in the cage, hitting as many balls as possible. He already told me today that he wants to follow me everywhere he goes. If I have to go to the cage he’s going to go with me to hit some balls. He’s committed and I’m committed, too.”

The Phillies have baseball’s second-worst on-base percentage (.307, San Diego is .303) the last six seasons. The additions of Santana and J.P. Crawford to the lineup – and a full season of Rhys Hoskins, another selective hitter – should help the offense.

“When you have a guy (like Santana) in the middle of the lineup, grinding down the opposing pitcher – just imagine, you’re a pitcher on the other side and you’re delivering pitch after pitch that’s getting fouled off or a ball that is just off the corner and being taken, you get exhausted,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Guess who benefits from that? The next man up and the next man up and there’s this ripple effect. An exhausted starting pitcher or even an exhausted reliever is a really good thing for the Philadelphia Phillies.”

Santana signed a three-year, $60 million contract with the Phillies in December. He said the Phillies’ young core reminds him of the group of youngsters that his former team, the Cleveland Indians, brought to the majors in recent seasons.

Unlike a number of other free agents who are still jobless in this unusual year for free agents, Santana jumped relatively early at the Phillies’ offer. He said it was “shocking” that so many free agents remain unsigned.

“I know baseball is going through a difficult time right now, with all of the free agents,” Santana said. “But it worked out for me. I am happy. I can only speak for myself, and I am happy I did it the way I did it. It's very surprising because there are a lot of talented free agents out there. I thought it would be very different from what it's been.”

To prepare for the new season and the new team, Santana worked with a personal trainer in the Dominican Republic. In one of the drills, he was forced to push a car.

“It was a complete workout,” he said. “It wasn't only to get ready for preseason, it was also to get ready for the season and be successful during the season.

“It's a positive atmosphere here. I see a lot of young guys, very hungry and very eager to win. You can tell everyone is ready to go here.”

Phillies add experienced candidate to their bullpen

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Phillies add experienced candidate to their bullpen

CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Phillies on Saturday added to their stock of reliever candidates with the signing of veteran left-hander Fernando Abad to a minor-league contract. Abad will report to big-league camp and compete for a job on the 25-man roster.

The Phillies are likely to have an eight-man bullpen. The addition of Abad gives the Phillies four left-handed relief candidates. Adam Morgan, Hoby Milner and Zac Curtis are all on the 40-man roster. 

Morgan and Milner both shined in the second half of 2017. Morgan recorded a 1.69 ERA in 21 games over the final two months. He pitched 26 2/3 innings over that span, allowed just 16 hits and five runs, struck out 33 and walked six. Milner gave up just two runs in 21 2/3 innings over his last 27 games. He struck out 15 and managed to pitch around 12 walks. He was tough on lefty hitters (.159), but struggled against righties (.377). Curtis was a late-season waiver claim from Seattle. He pitched in just three games with the Phillies. 

Abad, 32, is an eight-year major-league veteran who has made stops in Houston, Washington, Oakland, Minnesota and Boston. He had a 3.30 ERA in 48 games with the Red Sox last season and lefties hit .227 off him.

From the right side, the Phillies have some bullpen depth with closer Hector Neris, veteran setup men Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, Luis Garcia and Edubray Ramos. Victor Arano, Ricardo Pinto, Yacksel Rios and Seranthony Dominquez are also on the 40-man roster. 

Dominguez hit 100 mph on the radar gun as a starter last season and is being converted to the bullpen. He is likely to open the season at Double A Reading, but “could be a quick mover,” general manager Matt Klentak said.

The list of bullpen candidates also includes two veterans on minor-league contracts: Pedro Beato and Francisco Rodriguez. The latter is a 16-year veteran who has racked up 437 saves – fourth-most all-time – in his career. Rodriguez was released by the Tigers and Nationals last summer and is trying to make the Phillies as a non-roster invitee to big-league camp.