Phillies

MLB Playoffs: Indians top Blue Jays again for 3-0 ALCS lead

MLB Playoffs: Indians top Blue Jays again for 3-0 ALCS lead

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TORONTO -- Andrew Miller and the Cleveland bullpen pulled off their most impressive feat yet in these American League playoffs, taking over after Trevor Bauer's bloody exit and holding off the Toronto Blue Jays in a 4-2 victory Monday night that moved the Indians within one win of their first pennant since 1997.

Jason Kipnis and Mike Napoli homered for the Indians, who took a 3-0 lead in the AL Championship Series. They are unbeaten in six playoff games this year and can complete their second consecutive sweep on Tuesday.

Six relievers combined for 25 outs and 128 pitches, limiting Toronto to two runs and seven hits. Miller got four outs for the save.

"If anybody has a hiccup, we probably lose," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.

Indians ace Corey Kluber is scheduled to start Game 4 on short rest after Bauer's drone-related finger injury created more upheaval in a rotation that's been short-handed all postseason. Bauer faced only four batters before getting pulled in the first inning after his stitched-up right pinkie began dripping blood.

Enter the stingy Cleveland relievers, who pitched the Indians to a Division Series sweep over Boston and have them on the verge of another.

"It's a good feeling," Kipnis said. "We've still got one more to get there, and it's going to be tough. We know these guys. Just kind of like the Boston series -- we don't want to wait around for them to figure it out. We want to get to them now."

After Bauer left with two down and two on in the first, the final 25 Toronto outs were distributed as follows: four each for Dan Otero and Jeff Manship, three for Zach McAllister, five each for Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen, and four for Miller.

"We're having a blast. Just watch us play. Watch all the smiles. Guys are loose. Guys are having a good time, and you're seeing the play out there kind of reflect that attitude," Kipnis said.

The Blue Jays have never led in the series. And when Kipnis led off the sixth with a home run to right-center field, Cleveland went up 3-2 and was suddenly just a few outs from being able to turn the game over to Allen and Miller.

They appeared in that order, yet another instance in which Francona has maneuvered his bullpen unencumbered by the idea of rigid roles. Allen, who usually closes for the Indians, came on in the seventh with a runner on and nobody out. A two-out walk to Jose Bautista put the potential tying run on, but Josh Donaldson's liner to left field stayed up long enough for Coco Crisp to make a sliding catch.

Miller, who struck out 10 in 3 2/3 innings through the first two games of the series, fanned three batters this time.

"We knew that we could do this, where we could piece together bullpen arm by bullpen arm and go one inning, two innings and still get a win," Kipnis said. "We've done it before. We have the experience."

Cleveland has won nine straight games dating to the regular season.

Napoli entered 2 for 18 this postseason and in an 0-for-25 slump against right-handers dating to the regular season. He opened the scoring with an RBI double off righty Marcus Stroman in the first -- Napoli's long fly popped out of Bautista's glove before both the ball and Bautista bounced off the wall in right field.

Bauer made it through only 21 pitches. He'd been pushed back two days to Game 3 after cutting his finger last week repairing one of the drones he enjoys flying as a hobby. He received stitches and tried to pitch, but couldn't make it through the first inning without blood dripping from his hand.

"Trevor got a little leak," Kipnis said. "A couple of us had seen the wound kind of inside and knew it was a possibility of happening. He can deal with the pain, but it's getting something like that to close up. It's hard to do in a short amount of time."

It's yet another injury problem for a Cleveland team that couldn't include starting pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar on its ALCS roster. Even with the Indians up 3-0, their rotation for the rest of this series isn't a sure thing for the Indians, with Kluber coming back for Game 4 (and presumably any Game 7) on short rest and lightly used rookie Ryan Merritt lined up for Game 5.

Michael Saunders tied it for Toronto with a solo homer in the second, matching the scoring total by the Blue Jays over the first two games in Cleveland. Napoli's solo homer in the fourth put the Indians up 2-1, but Ezequiel Carrera led off the Blue Jays fifth with a triple and scored to tie it on a grounder by Ryan Goins.

Kipnis answered with his first hit of the series, a home run that put Cleveland back ahead. And after Napoli drew a walk from Stroman and advanced to second on a wild pitch, Jose Ramirez added an RBI single off reliever Joe Biagini.

"Tito did a masterful job running that bullpen today," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "They shut us down."

Trainer's room
Bauer's problems were the big story Monday, but Francona did say Salazar (forearm) was progressing well after throwing to hitters Sunday night.

Up next
Kluber has never started on three days' rest in his major league career, but Francona said before Monday's game that was the plan for Game 4 if Bauer had problems with his finger. Toronto will start right-hander Aaron Sanchez, who allowed six runs in 5 2/3 innings against Texas in Game 3 of the ALDS.

Phillies' ramped-up rebuild demands starting-pitching upgrade

Phillies' ramped-up rebuild demands starting-pitching upgrade

Let the record show that on a snowy Friday afternoon 10 days before Christmas 2017, the Phillies ramped up their rebuild.

Dramatically.

What other conclusion can be drawn after the club went out and signed Carlos Santana, one of the best offensive players on the free-agent market? With the signing, confirmed by multiple baseball sources, general manager Matt Klentak has attached a new level of importance to the 2018 season.

Just a couple of days ago at the winter meetings in Orlando, Klentak spoke of how 2018 was going to be a time to "find out" more about the team's young core of players. Who would continue to take a step forward? Who would fall by the wayside?

But now that Santana is here, 2018 doesn't feel like it's just a find-out season. It feels like a season in which the Phillies can continue to find out about players — separate the studs from the duds — and also start nibbling around that second National League wild-card spot.

Sure, a lot has to go right for that to happen.

And one of the things that has to go right is Klentak has to land a starting pitcher to slot in around Aaron Nola and the rest of the staff, which has the look of a bunch of No. 4 and No. 5 starters — until someone steps forward.

Santana's deal is for three years and $60 million, according to sources. Three years is a nice get — i.e., it's not cripplingly long — for a 32-year-old (in April) who hits for power, produces runs and does what Klentak likes best: controls the strike zone. (You could say that Klentak added two players who control the strike zone to his lineup Friday as the trade of Freddy Galvis to San Diego for strike-throwing pitching prospect Enyel De Los Santos cleared the way for J.P. Crawford to be the regular shortstop.)

The Phillies need to do everything within reason to make sure that the first of Santana's three seasons with the club isn't about simply inching the rebuild forward. The Nationals are the class of the NL East, but the rest of the division ranges from ordinary to awful. The Phils, with an improved offense and bullpen (Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter), can play with the Braves and Mets and clean up on the Marlins, the jewelry store that became a pawnshop, in agent Scott Boras' words.

It's just up to Klentak to get more starting pitching, and he's on the case. He admitted that at the winter meetings. He is particularly fond of young starters with years of control remaining on their contracts. Gerrit Cole, Chris Archer and Michael Fulmer fit this description. It takes talent to get pitchers like that. The Phillies have enough depth of prospects to get one of these guys and their reserves of expendable talent just grew with the Santana signing.

Santana, a switch-hitter who has averaged 25 homers, 85 RBIs and a .810 OPS in eight seasons, is going to be the team's primary first baseman. Rhys Hoskins is going to be the primary leftfielder. That means the Phillies suddenly have a young outfielder that they could deal. Maybe they try to capitalize on Nick Williams' strong half-season in the majors and package him for an arm. Or maybe it's Odubel Herrera or Aaron Altherr.

However it plays out, you can be sure that Klentak will be creative. You can rule nothing out with this guy. The other day, we poo-pooed the Phillies signing Jake Arrieta, who is looking for a long-term deal approaching $200 million. But if Arrieta lingers out there until February and is looking for a two-year landing spot, hey, maybe.

We wouldn't even put it past Klentak to entertain the idea of using Santana at third base a little bit — he did play 26 games there in 2014 — and trading Maikel Franco. The Giants were sniffing around, gathering intel on Franco at the winter meetings. There has to be a reason for that. Also at the meetings, an official from a rival club said the Phillies weren't as aggressive as he expected in trying to move Cesar Hernandez. Could it be that Hernandez would get some time at third if Franco were to be moved? Hernandez is still a trade chip, but he doesn't need to be cashed in until July and by that time Scott Kingery should be here.

There are a lot of ways this thing can go. And with the signing of Carlos Santana — which won't become official until he passes a physical next week — the Phillies have guaranteed that the remainder of this offseason will be a busy one.

It has to be.

The stakes have changed for 2018. The rebuild is still in place, but it has been ramped up. Matt Klentak has improved the bullpen and the offense. Now he has to attack that starting pitching and he has the trade weapons to do it.

Source: Phillies agree to $60 million deal with Carlos Santana

Source: Phillies agree to $60 million deal with Carlos Santana

The Phillies' busy Friday continued with a pricey free-agent signing.

The Phils have agreed to a three-year, $60 million deal with former Cleveland Indian Carlos Santana, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury.

It is by far the most expensive contract the Phillies have given out under the Matt Klentak-Andy MacPhail regime.

They had the money. When the offseason began, the only player the Phillies had signed to a multi-million dollar deal was Odubel Herrera.

Santana, 31, has always been a high-walk power hitter. From 2011 through 2017, he walked between 88 and 113 times each season, all while maintaining relatively low strikeout totals for a man with such power and plate selection.

In 2016, Santana set a career high with 34 home runs. Last season, he hit .259/.363/.455 with 37 doubles, 23 homers and 79 RBIs.

This addition provides the Phillies with much-needed pop to protect Rhys Hoskins and also gives the Phils added versatility. Santana is a switch-hitter who came up as a catcher, but he hasn't caught since 2014. The last three seasons, he has played primarily first base. In his eight seasons, Santana has also started 26 games at third base and seven in right field.

The move likely means Hoskins will play left field, and it could facilitate another Phillies trade of an outfielder such as Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr or Odubel Herrera.