Phillies

Best of MLB: Red Sox clinch AL East, get Astros in ALDS

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Best of MLB: Red Sox clinch AL East, get Astros in ALDS

BOSTON —The hard chopper bounced off first baseman Mitch Moreland's glove and high into the air. Second baseman Brock Holt jumped to glove the ball and flipped it to first, where David Price was covering.

When the Boston Red Sox needed him, Price was there.

The one-time ace came out of the bullpen in relief of Drew Pomeranz and squelched a dangerous seventh-inning rally on Saturday, helping the Red Sox beat the Houston Astros 6-3 and clinch the first back-to-back AL East titles in franchise history.

With the win, the Red Sox avoided a possible tiebreaker against the rival New York Yankees.

"That was important: Just get it done today," outfielder Hanley Ramirez said afterward in the Red Sox clubhouse, where music blared, the lockers were covered in plastic and players wore goggles to protect their eyes from the spray of beer and domestic sparkling wine.

With the Boston win, the Yankees were left with a wild-card spot and a one-game matchup against the Minnesota Twins for the right to play Cleveland in the best-of-five AL Division Series. The Astros' loss meant the Indians, with the tiebreaker over Houston and 101 wins entering Saturday, clinched the best record in the AL (see full recap).  

Rockies clinch postseason berth with Brewers loss
DENVER — The Colorado Rockies sprayed soda around the clubhouse and even did a bit of dancing after clinching their first postseason berth since 2009.

Then, they had to go play a game - pressure free, of course.

Colorado sewed up the second NL wild-card spot courtesy of St. Louis' 7-6 win over Milwaukee on Saturday afternoon. Former Rockies pitcher Juan Nicasio recorded the final out for the Cardinals.

The Rockies will face Arizona in the NL wild-card game Wednesday night.

Colorado fans trickling into Coors Field before the game against Los Angeles let out a roar after the final out. The Cardinals-Brewers game was shown on the scoreboard.

In the clubhouse, the Rockies wildly celebrated after gathering in front of a TV. Ian Desmond showered his teammates with soda, Jonathan Lucroy raised his hands in triumph, Nolan Arenado let out a scream and Carlos Gonzalez broke into a dance (see full recap). 

Nationals ace Scherzer exits with apparent leg injury
WASHINGTON — Nationals ace Max Scherzer has been pulled from his start against Pittsburgh because of an apparent injury to his right leg.

The NL East champions didn't provide immediate word on the extent of Scherzer's condition Saturday night.

Scherzer stumbled on a 2-2 pitch to Josh Bell in the fourth inning. Scherzer then began to throw a full-count pitch, but abruptly stopped when time was called.

Washington manager Dusty Baker, pitching coach Mike Maddux and team trainers visited the mound and quickly took out Scherzer.

This was Scherzer's final tuneup before the Nationals play the Chicago Cubs in the Division Series beginning Friday.

Scherzer leads the National League with 268 strikeouts. He is 16-6 with a 2.51 ERA.

The two-time Cy Young winner had given up one hit and struck out five in 3 1/3 scoreless innings when he was hurt.

Yankees get AL wild card; Judge hits 52nd HR
NEW YORK — In a way, manager Joe Girardi figures, Aaron Judge and some of the young New York Yankees without any postseason experience already have gotten the feel of playoff pressure.

The Yankees wound up with an AL wild-card spot Saturday, beating Toronto 2-1 on Judge's 52nd home run shortly before Boston clinched the AL East crown.

New York needed two wins and two losses by Boston to force a tiebreaker Monday at Yankee Stadium. Instead, the Yankees will host Minnesota in the wild-card game Tuesday.

"I started thinking about that the last couple of days where in a sense they're elimination games for us," Girardi said. "We were five down coming home from the road trip and our guys just continued to play well. They continued to play loose. They continued to make pitches, grind out at-bats and that was encouraging to me because it's not like we've had a chance to turn it off and I like that."

The wild-card winner will face Cleveland in the best-of-five AL Division Series. Boston, which beat Houston about 20 minutes after the Yankees won, is set to take on the Astros in the playoffs (see full recap). 

Rhys Hoskins on 'surreal' rookie year, position switch, expectations

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Rhys Hoskins on 'surreal' rookie year, position switch, expectations

For a couple of weeks in August, Rhys Hoskins might have been Philadelphia's most popular athlete. Fans marveled at the nightly power display that the young slugger put on in the middle of the Phillies' batting order. Carson Wentz and the Eagles had not yet begun their magnificent season. Hoskins was the man in town.

It hit him one night after a game. He stopped in Center City for some late-night eats. A man and his young son approached. They offered their congratulations and asked for an autograph.

"That's when I was like, 'OK, this might be something that's about to be part of my life,' " Hoskins said. "But it was cool because I used to be that kid."

Hoskins was back in the area Monday night for the 114th Philadelphia Sports Writers Association Dinner. He was honored with a special achievement award for a torrid major league debut in which he clubbed 18 homers and drove in 48 runs in just 50 games last season.

Hoskins was raised in Sacramento, California but moved to San Diego this offseason. His 18 homers in 2017 were the most ever hit by a player who did not make his season debut until after Aug. 1. Hall of Famer Ted Williams, who hit 13 homers after returning from the Korean War in 1953, was the previous record holder.

Williams was a San Diego native.

"Surreal," Hoskins said of that 50-game stretch last season and the buzz that has followed him into the offseason. "Indescribable."

He is now a recognizable face, a signature talent, in a sports-crazy town.

And he's ready for it.

"Enjoy it," he said. "Take it by storm and enjoy it. It's supposed to be fun and that's probably the best approach to take. I think my thought is what happened may never happen again. Tomorrow something might happen. Tomorrow I might never be able to step on a baseball field again. So I think you have to take it by storm and enjoy it.

"If you had asked me a year ago if I would be walking down the streets of Philadelphia and would people recognize me I'd probably laugh at you. But that’s where we are now.

"It's just a testament to how passionate the people of Philadelphia are and how much they love their sports."

Hoskins will report to Clearwater for spring training at the end of this month. He wants to get a head start so he can ramp up his workouts in left field. A first baseman by trade, he began playing the position occasionally last season. He will move there full-time in 2018 as newly signed Carlos Santana takes over at first base.

Hoskins got a 30-game taste of left field last year. He is OK with the move.

"Having Carlos is exciting for the city and exciting for the team," Hoskins said. "We add a guy who has proven himself in this league for five or six years at a very high level so to kind of insert that into the lineup and into the clubhouse, especially with such a young team — I think we're going to feel that exponentially throughout the year.

"Left field is a challenge. It's a challenge that I'm definitely excited about. I started to feel more comfortable out there toward the end of the year.

"I think I can be just fine out there. I'm not necessarily going to be a Gold Glover. I just don’t have the speed that some guys out there do, especially in today's game. But I think I'll be just fine and contribute to the team defensively as much as I can and make the plays that I'm supposed to."

Hoskins will turn 25 on March 17. He projects to bat cleanup in new manager Gabe Kapler's lineup.

"He's energized, intense and thorough," Hoskins said of the new skipper. "He can captivate a room. I'm curious to see how that dynamic works in the clubhouse. I think he's going to be a pretty exciting guy to work with."

Phillies sign 3 to clear up arbitration cases

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Phillies sign 3 to clear up arbitration cases

Updated: 3:15 p.m.

The Phillies wrapped up all of their potential salary arbitration cases when they agreed to 2018 contracts with infielders Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco and relief pitcher Luis Garcia on Friday.

Earlier in the week, the team agreed on a contract with catcher Cameron Rupp.

Those were the club's only arbitration-eligible players.

Hernandez, a second-time arbitration-eligible player, will make $5.1 million in 2018, up from $2.55 million last season. 

Franco and Garcia were both eligible for salary arbitration for the first time.

Franco will make $2.95 million, up from $560,000 last season. The 25-year-old third baseman had a disappointing season in 2017, hitting just .230 with a .281 on-base percentage. He did hit a team-high 24 home runs.

Franco has great potential and club management will be looking for him to put it together in 2018. But even a strong season from Franco probably won't sway the club away from making a run at Manny Machado, who is scheduled to hit the free-agent market next winter.

Garcia, who turns 31 later this month, will make $1.2 million in 2018, up from $550,000 last year.

Back in October, new manager Gabe Kapler mentioned Garcia as a player who had caught his attention. Consistency had long eluded the hard-throwing right-hander but he found it in 2017 and had his best season. He added a splitter to his power fastball-slider mix and posted a 2.65 ERA in 66 games. He gave up just four earned runs in 22⅓ innings over his final 23 games, and three of those runs came in one outing.

Hernandez, the team's 27-year-old second baseman, has been one of the Phils' top players the last two seasons. He hit .294 and posted a .372 on-base percentage over that span.

The Phils are deep at second base and top prospect Scott Kingery is expected to be ready to arrive in the majors during the first half of the 2018 season. With Kingery coming, there is a chance the Phils could cash in on Hernandez's value and trade him for pitching sometime between now and Kingery's expected arrival.

Hernandez will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2020 season.

Hernandez's former double-play mate, Freddy Galvis, was traded to San Diego in December. Rookie J.P. Crawford will move in at shortstop in 2018. Galvis settled his potential arbitration case with the Padres on Friday when he agreed to a one-year deal worth $6.825 million.

Rupp, who was eligible for arbitration for the first time, will make $2.05 million in 2018. He is one of three catchers on the 40-man roster along with Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp. Alfaro is out of minor-league options and will be given the chance to be the team's No. 1 catcher in April.