Phillies

Happy to be out of Houston and with Phillies, Pat Neshek expects to be traded at some point

Happy to be out of Houston and with Phillies, Pat Neshek expects to be traded at some point

ATLANTA — Pat Neshek is not only a baseball player, he is also a baseball fan.

"I read the box scores," he said.

When Neshek checks out the standings these days, he sees that his old team, the Houston Astros, is the best in baseball, and his current team, the Phillies, is the worst.

Does it make the 36-year-old relief pitcher long to be back in Houston?

"God, no," Neshek said with a look of mild horror crossing his face.

Neshek joined the Phillies in a November cash deal. Essentially, it was a salary dump for the Astros. The Phillies assumed Neshek's $6.5 million salary for 2017 and bought themselves some bullpen stability, not to mention a potential July trade chip that has recently added some shine.

"It was a great trade for both of us," Neshek said. "They got to shed some salary. I got to get out of there and do more."

Neshek had an All-Star season with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2014 and signed a three-year deal with the improving Astros before the 2015 season. He pitched in 66 games in 2015 and 60 last season but did not enjoy his role.

"I kind of became a bit player there," he said. "In '15, I did a lot of eighth-inning stuff and I think I was second or third in the league in holds, but I had a bad final month where they kind of just gave up on me. In '16, I just became a sixth-inning righty specialist guy and it was awful. I knew I could do a lot more. So when the trade (to the Phillies) happened I was thrilled. This was the best thing that happened to me in a few years.

"I can understand why (the Astros) did it. They have a bullpen that’s pretty well-stocked over there. So I'm real happy to be out — if not I would rather have been a free agent than gone back there, which may sound crazy but it gets to the point where you just want to do more. I would almost rather retire than do a role like I was doing for them. It was miserable."

Neshek is anything but miserable with the Phillies.

He's enjoyed his time with the club immensely and would like to hang around and see where the team's rebuild goes.

But that's probably not going to happen. He is pitching his way out of a Phillies uniform. When Hector Neris wobbled in the ninth inning Tuesday night, manager Pete Mackanin summoned Neshek for a two-out save. Neshek got that save — his first in two years — on five pitches. The performance left him at 22 innings for the season. He'd allowed just 13 hits and two runs while walking just four and striking out 21.

"Relieving is a really tough business," Neshek said. "Confidence and getting on a roll is a big part of it."

Contending teams are always looking for veteran bullpen help at the trade deadline. General manager Matt Klentak knew that when he acquired Neshek. Ditto for Clay Buchholz, Howie Kendrick, Michael Saunders and Joaquin Benoit, all veteran offseason pickups who were seen as potential mid-season trade chips.

Buchholz is out for the season with an elbow injury, Kendrick missed more than a month with an abdominal injury, Saunders has struggled offensively and Benoit, currently on the disabled list, has had ups and downs. Of the group of players added over the winter, Neshek has emerged as the best trade chip.

Does he expect to be moved?

"I would say yes," he said. "It would be really cool to stay around here. I like it here. I feel very comfortable here. But if that happens …"

He paused.

"I'm sure it will happen," he said with a laugh.

It's unclear what Neshek will bring back, but his value will only rise if he continues to pitch well. His role with the Phillies is evolving. While Mackanin would like to eventually see Neris lock down the closer's job, Neshek was set to fill the role on Wednesday night — the Phils lost 14-1 to the Braves and did not need a closer — and could get the call in the coming days if a need arises.

"People make a big deal about who the closer is," Neshek said. "You kind of pitch into those roles.

"I'm just out there competing. It's me against that hitter. I'll go over the hitters' weaknesses and try to attack."

For now, that'll be with the Phillies.

MLB Playoffs: Justin Turner hits walk-off HR to give Dodgers 2-0 lead over Cubs

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MLB Playoffs: Justin Turner hits walk-off HR to give Dodgers 2-0 lead over Cubs

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES -- Justin Turner hit a three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 4-1 on Sunday to take a 2-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.

The red-bearded slugger connected on the 29th anniversary of the Dodgers' last game-ending postseason homer: Kirk Gibson's famous pinch-hit drive to beat Oakland in the 1988 World Series opener.

"One of my earliest baseball memories, I was 4 years old at my grandma's house watching that game in `88 and seeing Gibby hit that homer," a smiling Turner said. "So yeah, it feels pretty cool. I thought about doing the fist pump around the bases, but we'll wait until we get to the World Series for that, hopefully."

Turner drove in every run for Los Angeles, going the other way for a tying single in the fifth before sending a long shot to center field off John Lackey in the ninth. A fan wearing a blue Dodgers jersey reached over a railing to catch the ball on the fly.

Turner's second homer of the postseason ended another dramatic night for the Dodgers, who remained unbeaten in these playoffs and moved within two wins of their first World Series appearance since 1988.

"It's very cool, and J.T., we were talking about it in there after the game," manager Dave Roberts said. "Twenty-nine years to the day. It was special. Our guys feel it."

Game 3 in the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Midseason acquisition Yu Darvish starts for the Dodgers against Kyle Hendricks.

Yasiel Puig drew his third walk of the game leading off the ninth, and Charlie Culberson bunted him to second. After losing pitcher Brian Duensing struck out pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer, Chicago manager Joe Maddon went to the bullpen for the 38-year-old Lackey, who pitched on consecutive days for the first time in his 15-year career.

Lackey got the call over All-Star closer Wade Davis, and the veteran starter walked Chris Taylor on six tense pitches.

Turner stepped up and ended it with his fourth career playoff homer. He's been at his best in October, batting .377 with 22 RBIs in the postseason.

"We've been doing it all year long," Turner said. "We're never out of a game. As long as we have outs left, we're going to keep fighting."

Completing the poetry of the moment, a fan in a Chase Utley jersey in the center-field bleachers caught the ball in his glove.

Addison Russell homered in the fifth for the Cubs, who are down early in this rematch of the 2016 NLCS. Chicago won that series in six games and went on to its first World Series championship since 1908, while the Dodgers have been absent from the Fall Classic since 1988.

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen got the victory with a hitless ninth despite hitting Anthony Rizzo on the hand with a one-out pitch. That ended the Los Angeles bullpen's impressive streak of 22 straight Cubs retired to begin the NLCS, but the Dodgers have thrown eight hitless and scoreless innings of relief in the NLCS.

After a collective offensive effort drove the Dodgers to a 5-2 win in Game 1, Turner did it all in Game 2. He has 10 RBIs in the Dodgers' five postseason games, getting five in the playoff opener against Arizona.

Jon Lester yielded three hits and five walks while failing to get out of the fifth inning in the shortest start of his long postseason career, but the Dodgers couldn't take advantage of a rare shaky night by the Cubs' star left-hander.

Rich Hill struck out eight in five more impressive innings for the Dodgers, but he was pulled for pinch-hitter Curtis Granderson in the fifth in a debatable decision by Roberts.

Russell was off to a 4-for-22 start in the postseason with nine strikeouts before the slugging shortstop put a leadoff homer into the short porch in left field.

Turner evened it moments later by poking a single to right after a leadoff double by Culberson, the Dodgers' improbably successful replacement for injured All-Star shortstop Corey Seager.

The Dodgers chased Lester with two outs in the fifth, but reliever Carl Edwards Jr. came through after several recent postseason struggles, striking out pinch-hitter Chase Utley and then pitching a strong sixth.

Lester was the co-MVP of last season's NLCS, winning Game 5 at Dodger Stadium and yielding two runs over 13 innings in the series. He had nothing near the same success against the Dodgers' revamped lineup in this one, issuing four walks in the first four innings and repeatedly escaping jams.

Dodgers third base coach Chris Woodward held up Turner in the third when it appeared he could have scored from first on Cody Bellinger's double to the gap.

Javier Baez, the other co-MVP of last season's NLCS for Chicago, got to third base in the third with one out but also was stranded.

Up next
Cubs: Hendricks dominated Chicago's playoff opener with seven scoreless innings against the Nationals, but yielded four runs in four innings during the team's wild Game 5 victory in Washington. He is starting on normal rest.

Dodgers: Darvish was outstanding in Game 3 against the Diamondbacks, earning his first career postseason victory with seven strikeouts over five innings of two-hit ball. He was acquired 

MLB Playoffs: Altuve's dash lifts Verlander, Astros over Yanks in Game 2

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MLB Playoffs: Altuve's dash lifts Verlander, Astros over Yanks in Game 2

HOUSTON — Jose Altuve raced home on Carlos Correa's double in the ninth inning, Justin Verlander struck out 13 in a complete game and the Houston Astros beat the New York Yankees 2-1 Saturday for a 2-0 lead in the AL Championship Series.

Correa also homered, but Houston needed a daring dash from Altuve to get Verlander a win. The 5-foot-6 AL MVP front-runner reached with a one-out single against closer Aroldis Chapman , then sprinted around from first base on Correa's shot to right-center field, sliding past catcher Gary Sanchez as he misplayed a short-hop. Altuve had two more hits and is 13 for 23 (.565) this postseason.

Verlander pitched another gem for the Astros, setting a postseason career best for strikeouts and allowing five hits in his second career complete game in the postseason. He threw a season-high 124 pitches and retired baby Bronx Bombers Aaron Judge, Sanchez and Greg Bird in the top of the ninth.

In the bottom of the inning, Judge picked up Correa's hit in right field and threw toward second base. Shortstop Didi Gregorius fielded there, and his throw beat Altuve to the plate by a few steps. But Sanchez bobbled the one-hop as Altuve slid by, and the Astros mobbed Correa in shallow center field. Altuve pointed toward Correa and his teammates from behind the plate (see full recap).

Puig, Taylor power Dodgers past Cubs in NLCS Game 1
LOS ANGELES -- Chris Taylor hit a tiebreaking homer in the sixth inning, Yasiel Puig added a homer and an RBI double to his dynamite postseason, and the Los Angeles Dodgers overcame a short start by Clayton Kershaw for a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Saturday night in the NL Championship Series opener.

Charlie Culberson doubled, drove in the tying run and scored another while replacing injured All-Star shortstop Corey Seager for the resourceful Dodgers, who improved to 4-0 in this postseason.

With another collective offensive effort and four innings of perfect relief pitching, Los Angeles calmly overcame an early two-run deficit and took the first game of this rematch of the 2016 NLCS, won in six games by Chicago on the way to its first World Series championship in 108 years.

Game 2 is Sunday, with Rich Hill starting at home against Chicago's Jon Lester (see full recap).