Phillies

Has money been well spent for the Phillies?

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Has money been well spent for the Phillies?

Sports Illustrated recently released its “Fortunate 50." Four Phillies are very fortunate indeed -- which, as it turns out, isn’t quite the same thing as the Phillies being fortunate.

The rankings factor in salary as well as endorsements. There weren’t any Eagles on the list. Or Sixers. Or Flyers. Cliff Lee came in 17th. He’ll make $25.28 million this year. Ryan Howard was 25th. He’ll earn $23.2 million. Roy Halladay was 39th. He’ll collect $20.21 million. And Cole Hamels was 44th. He’ll pocket $19.9 million.

Again, those totals include income from outside concerns, but not as much as you might think. According to baseballreference.com, $25 million of Lee’s money comes courtesy of the Phillies. Howard gets $20 million from the club. Halladay gets another $20 million from the Phillies. And Hamels gets $19.5 million.

The math experts among you no doubt added up the total and concluded that those four players will cost the Phillies $84.5 million this season. That’s more than the Mariners, Twins, Brewers, Royals, Rockies, Indians, Pirates, Padres, Rays, A’s, Marlins and Astros budgeted as of Opening Day, according to Yahoo! Sports.

The Phils had a total opening day payroll of $158 million. Only the Los Angeles Dodgers ($214 million) and New York Yankees ($211 million) had bigger budgets.

The Phillies, as we know, are spenders. But are they getting a solid return on their investment?

The Indians beat the Phillies, 10-4, at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday (see story). The Fightins are 19-22. Not terrible. Not great. After Wednesday's loss, they were four games behind first-place Atlanta (which also had a day game). Again, not terrible. But not great, either.

No. 44 on the Fortunate 50 list took the mound for the Phillies on Wednesday. Hamels threw five innings, allowing six hits, five earned runs, two walks and two homers. He also struck out four. He got the loss again, dropping his record to 1-6 this season. There have been quite a few games this season in which Hamels didn’t get adequate run support and the loss really wasn’t his fault. Wednesday wasn’t one of those days. He simply didn’t pitch that well.

“You wake up and get ready for the game and you know you’re facing a tough team and you have to go out there and execute pitches, and I wasn’t able to do that early on,” Hamels said. “Anytime you go 3-2 [pitch count] to pretty much the whole lineup, over and over, you’re not putting yourself in a good spot.

"Pitching myself into situations where, most likely, they’re going to get hits, they’re going to get walks, they’re going to score the runs. That doesn’t keep my team, obviously, on their toes and ready for the ball if it is hit to them. It just makes for a really boring game. And, obviously, a losing game because that was the effort it entailed. That’s the really unfortunate part of how it went [Wednesday]. I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Despite the unsightly record (again, not his fault for the most part), Hamels has been OK this year (though his 4.61 ERA puts him just 79th among starting MLB pitchers). Lee (4-2, 2.86) has been very good. And Halladay -- well, you know how things have gone for Halladay.

Together, the top three pitchers on the team have combined for a 4.83 ERA and 7-12 record. Those numbers are obviously skewed by Halladay’s less-than-stellar/pre-surgery output. Even so, the numbers are the numbers. And when you measure those numbers against some other numbers (mainly the pitchers’ combined $64.5 million price tag), none of the numbers look great.

Then there’s Howard. He went 0 for 4 against the Indians on Wednesday. He entered the day hitting .252/.291/.446 with six home runs and 22 RBIs. That’s not exactly $20 million man production. (Somewhere, Lee Majors is shaking his rebuilt robot head at the price of inflation.)

In fairness, they’re only four guys. Four out of 25 on the roster. But they’re also four of the highest paid professional athletes in the country -- as well as four of the most important Phillies. Sports Illustrated is right. They’re fortunate men. Wonder if the Phils feel the same way.

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).