Phillies

Blue Jays 6, Phillies 4: Phils warn Alec Asher against getting 'cutter-happy'

Blue Jays 6, Phillies 4: Phils warn Alec Asher against getting 'cutter-happy'

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The offense remains a work in progress, and manager Pete Mackanin believes it's time to get the regulars more work as the Phillies near the end of their second week of spring games.

"Our guys haven't gotten into the swing of it right now," Mackanin said. "They need more at-bats. I've been giving a lot of the at-bats to the younger guys to get a look at them and some of the guys trying to make the team."

One of the regulars Mackanin thinks can get his bat working quickly is Howie Kendrick, who had a bases-loaded two-run single Thursday off Blue Jays reliever Tim Mayza.

"Kendrick has been hitting the ball up the middle a lot and not a lot to show for it," Mackanin said. "Today, you could see what he is capable of doing."

The Phillies didn't get a hit until Freddy Galvis' single off Joe Smith with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Logan Moore followed with a single and Smith walked Aaron Altherr and Cesar Hernandez to bring in a run.

The Phillies were able to get only five base hits in the game and Tommy Joseph hit a ninth-inning home run in the Blue Jays' 6-4 win. 

"It was good to see Joseph hit that home run," Mackanin said. "And Kendrick had the big single. Other than that we needed more hits."

Mackanin also credited Blue Jays starter Francisco Liriano, who didn't allow a hit and struck out five in three innings.

"Liriano set the tone. He was really tough," Mackanin said. "He looked like he was on his game with his changeup, tailing slider and the fastball."

Asher goes back to sinker
Alec Asher gave up back-to-back doubles to Kevin Pillar and Kendrys Morales before pitching his way out of trouble in his three-inning stint. 

Mackanin said it was a case of Asher's becoming too enamored with his cutter, and he needed an early visit from pitching coach Bob McClure.

"Asher got cutter-happy in the first inning," Mackanin said. "McClure reminded him that his sinker is his best pitch, he went to that and went unscathed the rest of the way. The first year that he pitched for us, he developed this sinker. That really made a difference for him, and when he came back last year it was obvious his sinker was a real money pitch. A lot of these guys when they learn how to throw a cutter, they get cutter-happy."

Asher gave up one run and six hits with a strikeout and a walk.

Up next
Clay Buchholz will start against Yankees righty Luis Cessa in Clearwater on Friday.

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).