Phillies

Best of MLB: Springer, Astros top Mets in return to Houston

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Best of MLB: Springer, Astros top Mets in return to Houston

HOUSTON -- George Springer hit his career-best 30th home run and J.D Davis also went deep to lead Houston over the New York Mets and Matt Harvey 12-8 Saturday in the Astros' first game at Minute Maid Park since Hurricane Harvey devastated the area.

A crowd of 30,319 attended the doubleheader opener. The Astros had moved a home series against rival Texas to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. The AL West leaders, who lost two of three to the Rangers, then postponed Friday's game by a day, allowing players time to work in the community.

Harvey (4-4) was pounded for seven runs and eight hits in a career-low two innings as Houston romped to a 7-0 lead. Harvey had not pitched for the Mets since June 14 because of a stress injury to the scapula bone in his right shoulder.

Jose Altuve had an RBI single and Marwin Gonzalez hit a two-run single, then scored on Cameron Maybon's single as Houston built a four-run lead in the 37-pitch inning. Maybin was claimed on waivers from the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday.

Springer hit a two-run homer in the second, when Harvey threw a run-scoring wild pitch (see full recap).

Holliday returns with 3-run HR, Yankees beat Red Sox 5-1
NEW YORK -- Matt Holliday made a smashing return to the Yankees' lineup, hitting a three-run homer that led Masahiro Tanaka and New York over the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox 5-1 Saturday.

The Yankees, already holding the top spot in the wild-card race, pulled within 4 games of Boston. The rivals close their season series Sunday night.

Holliday hadn't played in the majors since going on the disabled list almost a month ago with a back injury. He was activated Friday but sat out a 4-1 loss.

Holliday was greeted with "Welcome Back" by the public address announcer when the lineups were introduced, drawing a rippling of applause. Later, he revved up the sellout crowd of 46,536 on a holiday weekend.

It was 1-all in the sixth inning when Holliday launched a drive to left off Drew Pomeranz (14-5) estimated at 443 feet. Holliday pointed toward the Yankees dugout on his way toward first base after his 17th home run -- his previous homer was July 16, a tying shot in the ninth off Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel at Fenway Park (see full recap).

Rivera hits grand slam as streaking Cubs top Braves 14-12
CHICAGO -- Rene Rivera hit a grand slam, Anthony Rizzo added a three-run triple and the Chicago Cubs held off the Atlanta Braves for a 14-12 victory on Saturday in Jon Lester's return from the disabled list.

Javier Baez and Jason Heyward also homered for the NL Central-leading Cubs, who have won six straight and 12 of 15 overall. Rivera, Rizzo, Baez and Heyward finished with two hits apiece.

Lester (9-7) allowed four runs and eight hits in five innings in his first start since Aug. 16. He had been sidelined by tightness in his left lat and general shoulder fatigue.

Freddie Freeman, Matt Kemp and Rio Ruiz homered for Atlanta, which has dropped six of eight. Rookies Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson had three hits apiece, and Nick Markakis had two hits and drove in two runs (see full recap).

Solarte homers in 9th to give Padres 6-5 win over Dodgers
SAN DIEGO -- Yangervis Solarte homered with one out in the ninth inning to lift the San Diego Padres to a 6-5 victory against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first game of a split doubleheader on Saturday, the sixth loss in seven games for the NL West leaders.

Solarte's first career walkoff homer came off Pedro Baez (3-3). It was his 15th this season.

It came after Justin Turner's pinch-hit, two-run homer off All-Star closer Brad Hand (3-4) tied the game at five.

The Dodgers blew leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-1, and trailed 5-3 in the top of the ninth. Rob Segedin hit a leadoff double off Hand and Turner hit a one-out, no-doubter into the second deck in left field. It was his 18th of the season and the fifth pinch-hit homer of his career (see full recap).

Phillies' ramped-up rebuild demands starting-pitching upgrade

Phillies' ramped-up rebuild demands starting-pitching upgrade

Let the record show that on a snowy Friday afternoon 10 days before Christmas 2017, the Phillies ramped up their rebuild.

Dramatically.

What other conclusion can be drawn after the club went out and signed Carlos Santana, one of the best offensive players on the free-agent market? With the signing, confirmed by multiple baseball sources, general manager Matt Klentak has attached a new level of importance to the 2018 season.

Just a couple of days ago at the winter meetings in Orlando, Klentak spoke of how 2018 was going to be a time to "find out" more about the team's young core of players. Who would continue to take a step forward? Who would fall by the wayside?

But now that Santana is here, 2018 doesn't feel like it's just a find-out season. It feels like a season in which the Phillies can continue to find out about players — separate the studs from the duds — and also start nibbling around that second National League wild-card spot.

Sure, a lot has to go right for that to happen.

And one of the things that has to go right is Klentak has to land a starting pitcher to slot in around Aaron Nola and the rest of the staff, which has the look of a bunch of No. 4 and No. 5 starters — until someone steps forward.

Santana's deal is for three years and $60 million, according to sources. Three years is a nice get — i.e., it's not cripplingly long — for a 32-year-old (in April) who hits for power, produces runs and does what Klentak likes best: controls the strike zone. (You could say that Klentak added two players who control the strike zone to his lineup Friday as the trade of Freddy Galvis to San Diego for strike-throwing pitching prospect Enyel De Los Santos cleared the way for J.P. Crawford to be the regular shortstop.)

The Phillies need to do everything within reason to make sure that the first of Santana's three seasons with the club isn't about simply inching the rebuild forward. The Nationals are the class of the NL East, but the rest of the division ranges from ordinary to awful. The Phils, with an improved offense and bullpen (Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter), can play with the Braves and Mets and clean up on the Marlins, the jewelry store that became a pawnshop, in agent Scott Boras' words.

It's just up to Klentak to get more starting pitching, and he's on the case. He admitted that at the winter meetings. He is particularly fond of young starters with years of control remaining on their contracts. Gerrit Cole, Chris Archer and Michael Fulmer fit this description. It takes talent to get pitchers like that. The Phillies have enough depth of prospects to get one of these guys and their reserves of expendable talent just grew with the Santana signing.

Santana, a switch-hitter who has averaged 25 homers, 85 RBIs and a .810 OPS in eight seasons, is going to be the team's primary first baseman. Rhys Hoskins is going to be the primary leftfielder. That means the Phillies suddenly have a young outfielder that they could deal. Maybe they try to capitalize on Nick Williams' strong half-season in the majors and package him for an arm. Or maybe it's Odubel Herrera or Aaron Altherr.

However it plays out, you can be sure that Klentak will be creative. You can rule nothing out with this guy. The other day, we poo-pooed the Phillies signing Jake Arrieta, who is looking for a long-term deal approaching $200 million. But if Arrieta lingers out there until February and is looking for a two-year landing spot, hey, maybe.

We wouldn't even put it past Klentak to entertain the idea of using Santana at third base a little bit — he did play 26 games there in 2014 — and trading Maikel Franco. The Giants were sniffing around, gathering intel on Franco at the winter meetings. There has to be a reason for that. Also at the meetings, an official from a rival club said the Phillies weren't as aggressive as he expected in trying to move Cesar Hernandez. Could it be that Hernandez would get some time at third if Franco were to be moved? Hernandez is still a trade chip, but he doesn't need to be cashed in until July and by that time Scott Kingery should be here.

There are a lot of ways this thing can go. And with the signing of Carlos Santana — which won't become official until he passes a physical next week — the Phillies have guaranteed that the remainder of this offseason will be a busy one.

It has to be.

The stakes have changed for 2018. The rebuild is still in place, but it has been ramped up. Matt Klentak has improved the bullpen and the offense. Now he has to attack that starting pitching and he has the trade weapons to do it.

Source: Phillies agree to $60 million deal with Carlos Santana

Source: Phillies agree to $60 million deal with Carlos Santana

The Phillies' busy Friday continued with a pricey free-agent signing.

The Phils have agreed to a three-year, $60 million deal with former Cleveland Indian Carlos Santana, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury.

It is by far the most expensive contract the Phillies have given out under the Matt Klentak-Andy MacPhail regime.

They had the money. When the offseason began, the only player the Phillies had signed to a multi-million dollar deal was Odubel Herrera.

Santana, 31, has always been a high-walk power hitter. From 2011 through 2017, he walked between 88 and 113 times each season, all while maintaining relatively low strikeout totals for a man with such power and plate selection.

In 2016, Santana set a career high with 34 home runs. Last season, he hit .259/.363/.455 with 37 doubles, 23 homers and 79 RBIs.

This addition provides the Phillies with much-needed pop to protect Rhys Hoskins and also gives the Phils added versatility. Santana is a switch-hitter who came up as a catcher, but he hasn't caught since 2014. The last three seasons, he has played primarily first base. In his eight seasons, Santana has also started 26 games at third base and seven in right field.

The move likely means Hoskins will play left field, and it could facilitate another Phillies trade of an outfielder such as Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr or Odubel Herrera.