Phillies

Lannan's gem leads Phillies past Nationals

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Lannan's gem leads Phillies past Nationals

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It took a while for John Lannan to give in Monday night, but he did eventually. Not to the Washington Nationals’ hitters. Lannan was tough on them all night. It took the lefty a while to give in to himself and admit that, yes, this was a pretty special win.

Lannan pitched eight shutout innings in leading the Phillies’ 3-2 victory over the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).

Afterward, the former Nationals’ pitcher played the just-another-game, just-another-team, just-another-win routine for a little while.

Finally, he relented.

“I’m pretty sure I’ll feel good about it when I look back on it, maybe later on tonight,” he said with a sheepish grin.

Lannan was raised in the Nationals’ system. He came to the majors with the team in 2007. He started two opening days for the club. Ultimately, he was exiled to the minors by Washington in 2012 and unceremoniously dumped -- not offered a contract -- by the club after the season. He joined the Phillies as a free agent last winter.

It has been a tough season for Lannan. He spent time on the disabled list and has struggled to find consistency with the Phillies. But it all came together in this game. He kept the ball down in the strike zone and induced 12 ground-ball outs while allowing just four hits.

The Phillies, who have been shut out five times at home this season, were on their way to their first home shutout of the season before Jonathan Papelbon was hit hard in the ninth inning. Papelbon gave up two runs and got a messy save, but the bottom line was the Phillies won for the third time in four games on this crucial homestand that will determine whether management trades players or hangs on for a possible second-half run.

“Keep playing,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “Stay with it. We won tonight. Now start thinking about tomorrow.”

The Phillies have won five of their last seven games, four of them against first-place clubs Pittsburgh and Atlanta. They are 44-46. They have six games remaining on the homestand that will take them to the All-Star break. They probably need to win four of them to dissuade management from waving the white flag.

Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee pitch the next two nights. The team needs Hamels to follow up his strong outing in Pittsburgh with another good one and Lee to be, well, Lee.

Lannan (2-3) set a good tone for the series Monday night.

He was able to focus on the catcher’s mitt -- not the significance of the opponent.

“It helped that I’d already faced them once,” he said of the Nationals.

Lannan retired the Nats in order in half of his eight innings. He used his sinker and changeup effectively. He struck out just four but succeeded at getting a lot of weak contact. He walked just two.

“I tried to stay down in the zone, tried to keep them off-balance with my two-seamer and changeup,” he said. “That’s what I have to do because I’m not a big strikeout guy. At this point, I’m just looking for some consistency. It doesn’t matter who I’m facing, I’m just trying to throw up some zeroes.”

The Phillies’ offense was not all that efficient. They were just 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base. On a lot of nights, that will burn a team. It might have burned the Phils if Jayson Werth’s drive to center against Papelbon with two men on in the ninth had traveled a few more feet, but Papelbon held on and ended his night with handshakes.

Domonic Brown, manning the cleanup hole with Ryan Howard on the disabled list, drove in his team-high 63rd run with a single off Dan Haren in the first inning. Ben Revere had a two-out single in the sixth and scored on Jimmy Rollins’ hit. Revere had three hits and his average is up to .300 on the season.

The only bit of dispiriting news on the night -- other than the word that Howard needs surgery (see story) -- was that Brown was snubbed from the All-Star Home Run Derby (see story). His 23 homers are second-most in the NL, but they weren’t enough to impress Mets third baseman/derby captain David Wright, who picked childhood pal Michael Cuddyer (15 homers) over Brown.

Brown took the snub in stride. He said he was not disappointed.

“I’m still going to the All-Star Game,” he said. “That’s the big thing. I’m not really worried about the derby. I’ll be out there supporting and taking a lot of pictures.”

Astros reach World Series, shut out Yankees in ALCS Game 7

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Astros reach World Series, shut out Yankees in ALCS Game 7

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HOUSTON -- Jose Altuve embraced Justin Verlander as confetti rained down. An improbable thought just a few years ago, the Houston Astros are headed to the World Series.

Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers combined on a three-hitter, Altuve and Evan Gattis homered and the Astros reached the World Series for only the second time by blanking the New York Yankees 4-0 Saturday night in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Next up for the Astros: Game 1 against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Los Angeles opened as a narrow favorite, but Verlander, the ALCS MVP, and fellow Houston ace Dallas Keuchel will have plenty of rest before the World Series begins at sweltering Dodger Stadium.

"I love our personality," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We have the right amount of fun, the right amount of seriousness, the right amount of perspective when we need it. This is a very, very unique group. To win 100 games and still be hungry is pretty remarkable."

The Astros will try for their first World Series title, thanks in large part to Altuve, the diminutive second baseman who swings a potent bat, and Verlander, who switched teams for the first time in his career to chase a ring.

Four years removed from their third straight 100-loss season in 2013, the Astros shut down the Yankees on consecutive nights after dropping three in a row in the Bronx.

The only previous time the Astros made it this far, they were a National League team when they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in 2005.

Hinch's club has a chance to win that elusive first crown, while trying to boost a region still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

"This city, they deserve this," McCullers said.

Clutch defensive plays by third baseman Alex Bregman and center fielder George Springer helped Houston improve to 6-0 at Minute Maid Park in these playoffs and become the fifth team in major league history to capture a seven-game postseason series by winning all four of its home games.

Morton bounced back from a loss in Game 3 to allow two hits over five scoreless innings. Starter-turned-postseason reliever McCullers limited the Yankees to just one hit while fanning six over the next four. A noted curveballer, McCullers finished up with 24 straight breaking pitches to earn his first major league save.

Combined, they throttled the wild-card Yankees one last time in Houston. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and their New York teammates totaled just three runs in the four road games.

"I know people are going to talk about how we didn't win many games on the road. There were some other teams that haven't won many games on the road, either. We just happened to run into a very good team that just beat us," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

The Astros also eliminated New York in the 2015 postseason, with Keuchel winning the AL wild-card game at Yankee Stadium.

CC Sabathia entered 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts this season after a Yankees loss. But he struggled with command and was gone with one out in the fourth inning.

Houston was up 2-0 in fifth when former Yankees star Brian McCann came through for the second straight game by hitting a two-run double. He snapped an 0-for-20 skid with an ground-rule RBI double to give Houston its first run on Friday night in a 7-1 win.

The Yankees, trying to reach the World Series for the first time since 2009, lost an elimination game for the first time this season after winning their first four in these playoffs. New York went 1-6 on the road this postseason.

After going 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position through the first three innings, the Astros got on the board with no outs in the fourth with the 405-foot shot by Gattis.

Altuve launched a ball off Tommy Kahnle into the seats in right field with one out in the fifth for his fifth homer this postseason. It took a while for him to see that it was going to get out, and held onto his bat until he was halfway to first base before flipping it and trotting around the bases as chants of "MVP" rained down on him.

Altuve finished 8 for 25 with two homers and four RBIs in the ALCS after hitting .533 with three homers and four RBIs in the ALDS against Boston.

Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel hit consecutive singles before Kahnle struck out Gattis. McCann's two-strike double, which rolled into the corner of right field, cleared the bases to push the lead to 4-0. Gurriel slid to avoid the tag and remained on his belly in a swimming pose at the plate for a few seconds after he was called safe.

It was just the second Game 7 in franchise history for the Astros, who lost to the Cardinals in the 2004 NLCS exactly 13 years earlier.

Sabathia allowed five hits and one run while walking three in 3 1/3 innings. He wasn't nearly as sharp as he was in a Game 3 win and just 36 of the 65 pitches he threw were strikes.

Morton got into trouble in the fifth, and the Yankees had runners at the corners with one out. Bregman fielded a grounder hit by Todd Frazier and made a perfect throw home to allow McCann to tag Greg Bird and preserve Houston's lead. McCann held onto the ball despite Bird's cleat banging into his forearm. Chase Headley grounded out after that to end the inning.

A night after Springer kept Frazier from extra-bases with a leaping catch, Judge returned the favor on a ball hit by Yuli Gurriel. Judge sprinted, jumped and reached into the stands to grab his long fly ball before crashing into the wall and falling to the ground for the first out of the second inning.

Springer had another nifty catch in this one, jumping in front of Marwin Gonzalez at the wall in left-center to grab a ball hit by Bird for the first out of the seventh.

With McCullers in charge, the Astros soon closed it out.

"It's not easy to get here. And I don't take any of this for granted. And this is what we play for," Verlander said. "These are the experiences that you remember at the end of your career when you look back, winning these games, just playing the World Series. Hopefully winning the World Series."

MLB Playoffs: Verlander, Astros beat Yankees to force Game 7 in ALCS

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MLB Playoffs: Verlander, Astros beat Yankees to force Game 7 in ALCS

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HOUSTON — Justin Verlander remained perfect with Houston, pitching seven shutout innings when the team needed him most, and Jose Altuve homered and drove in three runs as the Astros extended the AL Championship Series to a decisive Game 7 with a 7-1 win over the New York Yankees on Friday night.

Acquired in an Aug. 31 trade, Verlander has won all nine outings with the Astros. And with his new club facing elimination in Game 6 against the Yankees, he delivered again.

After striking out 13 in a complete-game victory in Game 2, Verlander threw another gem. The right-hander scattered five hits and struck out eight to improve to 9-0 with 67 strikeouts since being traded from Detroit. George Springer helped him out of a jam in the seventh, leaping to make a catch at the center-field wall and rob Todd Frazier of extra bases with two on and Houston up 3-0.

Game 7 is Saturday night in Houston, with the winner advancing to the World Series against the NL champion Los Angeles Dodgers.