Phillies

Dominican Republic 15, Phillies 2: Ruf's struggles continue

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Dominican Republic 15, Phillies 2: Ruf's struggles continue

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Darin Ruf’s first big-league spring training camp has not gone well so far, but the Phillies remain patient with him.

“Right now things are not going good for him, but he’ll be all right,” manager Charlie Manuel said after Tuesday’s 15-2 loss to the Dominican Republic at Bright House Field.

Ruf went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. The game was not an official Grapefruit League contest, so statistics did not count. In eight official games, Ruf is hitting .130 (3 for 23) with a .286 on-base percentage and a .174 slugging percentage.

Ruf is clearly pressing at the plate.

“It looks like he’s trying too hard,” Manuel said.

Phillies officials aren’t about to panic about Ruf’s struggles at the plate or read too much into them. He proved he could swing the bat last season when he hit .317 with 38 homers and 104 RBIs at Double A Reading. Good hitters can go through tough times and that appears to be what’s happening here.

What Phillies officials cannot ignore is Ruf’s defensive shortcomings in leftfield. He misplayed a catchable ball that went for a double in Tuesday’s game. He has had several misplays in leftfield this spring. Ruf, 26, is a lifelong first baseman trying to make the conversion to leftfield.

If Ruf were hitting, his defensive struggles might blend into the scenery a little. But that’s not happening right now.

There are still 20 more games to play in Florida, plenty of time for Ruf to win a spot on the club. But he needs to start producing just the same.

Ruf does have minor-league options so he can be sent to Triple A.

Dubee defends Hamels
In his third start of the spring, Cole Hamels was tagged for 12 hits and eight runs by the Dominicans (see story). Pitching coach Rich Dubee was unfazed after Hamels’ 59-pitch effort.

“I thought Cole was fine,” Dubee said. “Spring training has a purpose, and one of those things is you have to get your fastball going. And he knows they’re all fastball hitters over there. He threw five curves, seven changes and nine cutters. But he wants to get his fastball command going. That’s the purpose today. It’s not about results.

“His goal was to get 60 pitches in and to try to control his fastball. Heck, he’s facing an all-star team and he doesn’t have all of his weapons. He’s not going to start ripping all of his pitches in a spring training game. When you try to ramp it up too soon, that’s when you have problems. He kept it under control and he made some mistakes with his fastball. But that’s where we have to get to. In this game, you pitch off your fastball, and that was the goal today, to command his fastball.”

Young gets checkup
Phillies officials are expecting to be updated on Delmon Young’s condition some time Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. Young had his surgically repaired right ankle examined by doctors in Los Angeles on Tuesday. If all looks good, he could be cleared to ramp up baseball activities.

Young will not be ready for opening day and will need time and work in right field. It would not be surprising if he needed much of April to get ready for game action.

Feature attraction
Wednesday’s pitching matchup is marquee-worthy: Roy Halladay against Washington’s Stephen Strasburg at Bright House Field.

Manuel said Ryan Howard would be in the starting lineup. Howard has started every game as Manuel tries to make sure his slugging first baseman is physically ready for opening day.

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).