MLB Playoffs: Javier Baez's blast gives Cubs win over Giants

MLB Playoffs: Javier Baez's blast gives Cubs win over Giants

CHICAGO -- Jon Lester outpitched Johnny Cueto with eight sparkling innings, Javier Baez homered in the eighth and the Chicago Cubs beat the San Francisco Giants 1-0 in a tense Game 1 of their NL Division Series on Friday night.

Lester retired his last 13 batters in a dominant performance, but the game was scoreless when Baez sent Angel Pagan scrambling to the left-field wall with a towering drive. With a raucous crowd of 42,148 and every player anxiously tracking the flight of the ball, Pagan ran out of room as it landed in the basket that tops the ivy-covered walls at Wrigley Field.

Aroldis Chapman gave up Buster Posey's two-out double off the ivy in the ninth before Hunter Pence bounced to second for the final out, wrapping a bow on Chicago's first meaningful game in weeks (see full recap).

Dodgers hold off Nationals in series opener
WASHINGTON -- Clayton Kershaw earned a rare postseason victory, and rookie Corey Seager and Justin Turner homered off Max Scherzer on Friday night, leading the Los Angeles Dodgers past the Washington Nationals 4-3 in Game 1 of their NL Division Series.

Kershaw, a lefty who owns three NL Cy Young Awards, worked around eight hits with the help of seven strikeouts, and exited after allowing three runs in five innings. He improved his career record in the playoffs to 3-6 even though his ERA rose to 4.65.

Four Dodgers relievers combined to allow one hit over four scoreless innings, with closer Kenley Jansen earning his first five-out save since April 13.

Seager homered on the first postseason pitch he's ever seen, and Turner added a two-run shot in the third as LA built a 4-0 lead against 20-game winner Scherzer (see full recap).

Kluber, Indians shut down Red Sox
CLEVELAND -- Corey Kluber carried a shutout into the eighth inning and Lonnie Chisenhall hit a three-run homer off postseason-cursed David Price, giving the Cleveland Indians a 6-0 win on Friday over the Boston Red Sox and a 2-0 lead in their AL Division Series.

Showing no signs of a late-season leg injury, Kluber limited the AL East champions to three hits over seven innings as the Indians moved within one win of returning to the ALCS for the first time since 2007.

David Ortiz and the Red Sox are in serious trouble and have to hope they can get things turned around Sunday in Game 3 at Fenway Park or their turnaround season will be over and Big Papi's career will be done.

Chisenhall connected in the second inning off Price, who fell to 0-8 in nine playoff starts and must now face the wrath of Red Sox Nation. The left-hander lasted just 3 1/3 innings and once again crumbled with a chance to silence critics who say he can't pitch in the big game (see full recap).

Blue Jays hit 4 more HRs to take 2-0 lead
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Edwin Encarnacion capped a three-homer burst in the fifth inning off Yu Darvish and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Texas Rangers 5-3 Friday to take a 2-0 lead in the AL Division Series.

The wild-card Blue Jays now go home looking to clinch the best-of-five matchup after beating the Rangers' two ace pitchers. Game 3 is Sunday night.

A reminder, though: Last year, Toronto lost the first two games of the ALDS at home against Texas, then rallied to win the series.

Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera and Encarnacion, who ended the AL wild-card game with a three-run homer in the 11th inning Tuesday night, hit solo homers in a five-batter span in the fifth. Troy Tulowitzki's two-run drive in the second put 20-game winner J.A. Happ and the Blue Jays ahead to stay.

Texas scored twice in the eighth, including an RBI single by Carlos Gomez that hit reliever Francisco Liriano in the back of the neck. Liriano walked off the mound, and an ambulance was waiting to take him to the hospital after the game.

Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna got five outs for a save (see full recap).

Jake Arrieta delights crowd, breaks bats

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Jake Arrieta delights crowd, breaks bats

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Spectrum Field was sold out, filled with fans clad in green and smeared with sunblock for a game against the Atlanta Braves on a festive St. Paddy’s Day.
But the main event Saturday took place several hundred yards away at the minor-league complex, two hours before the big-league game even began.
Five days after signing a three-year, $75 million contract with the Phillies, Jake Arrieta climbed atop a mound and threw a 31-pitch (two-inning) simulated game. Scott Kingery, Jorge Alfaro, Logan Moore and Andrew Pullin were the hitters. Andrew Knapp was the catcher. Players, coaches, minor-league instructors and manager Gabe Kapler all peeked in. Dozens of fans hugged the chain-link fence to get a look at the newest Phillie. They applauded when Arrieta took the mound and again when he finished.
“It was great,” the 32-year-old pitcher said moments after the workout ended. “There’s a lot of people out here. A lot of people are excited for the Phillies in 2018. We’ve got a lot of good things going on here. A lot of guys are healthy and competing, there’s a lot of youth. It’s a really fun time to be in this organization.”
Arrieta said he felt “really good physically,” not a surprise because he came into camp in terrific shape and had gotten to over 60 pitches in bullpen sessions back home in Austin, Texas. He threw all his pitches, including a couple of knee-buckling curveballs. He broke two of Alfaro’s bats, one with a sinker, one with a cutter.
“My goal was to throw everything in the arsenal for strikes and throw my off-speed pitches in and out of the zone where I could get some chases,” Arrieta said.
Arrieta did allow some contact, mostly ground balls.
Arrieta won the 2015 NL Cy Young Award with the Cubs. He won 22 games and had a 1.77 ERA that season.
A deceptive delivery is one of Arrieta’s strengths. He throws across his body and that crossfire action makes it difficult for a hitter to pick up the ball.
“It’s extremely deceptive,” Kingery said. “Every pitch is extremely deceptive. That’s what hit me. His curveball looks like it’s coming at your head then it drops.”
Arrieta is still hoping to be ready for the first week of the regular season, but the Phillies have not formulated a firm game plan. One thing is certain: They won’t rush him. They want him for the long haul. They could hold him back 10 days or so, allowing him to build more arm strength, and he’d still make 30 starts.
Arrieta expects to throw a bullpen session in the next day or two and try to get up around 60 pitches in his next outing. That could be in a minor-league game or in another simulated game.
“As long as we continue to get my pitch count up, I think I’ll be fine going into the season,” he said.

Alex Cobb? Matt Klentak discusses replacing Jerad Eickhoff

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Alex Cobb? Matt Klentak discusses replacing Jerad Eickhoff

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies signed free-agent right-hander Jake Arrieta earlier this week.

That's probably going to be the extent of their pitching additions for now.

Jerad Eickhoff is out until at least May with a strained right lat muscle and that creates a sizable hole in the Phillies rotation.

The hole is likely to be filled internally, according to general manager Matt Klentak. The team is not likely to make a run at Alex Cobb, who remains on the free-agent market.

"I doubt it," Klentak said when asked if he would look outside the organization to fill Eickhoff's spot. "I don't think we have to. I think a lot of our guys have shown very well in camp. They have gotten their pitch counts up, they're getting to the point of being fully stretched out.

"More than anything, I think we're going to have some tough decisions on figuring out who is in the rotation, who is in the bullpen, who goes into the Triple-A rotation, who goes into the Double-A rotation. We've got a lot of tough decisions to make on that front, but I don't think we're in a position where we have to go outside. We have a lot of candidates to take the ball at the big league level so we'll be fine."

Aaron Nola will start on opening day. Arrieta will be in the rotation, though he might need an extra week or so to get ready. Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta are likely to hold down spots. That leaves Zach Eflin, Ben Lively, Mark Leiter Jr., Jake Thompson, Drew Hutchison and Tom Eshelman in the running for the final spot in the five-man rotation. Eshelman, strike-thrower extraordinaire, was the Phillies' minor-league pitcher of the year last year and projects to be in Philadelphia before long. However, it might not be at the outset of the season because he is not on the 40-man roster. Neither is Hutchison.

The Phillies do not need a fifth starter until April 11 so they could employ some creative roster construction until then. They could go with four starters and an extra reliever or bench man. Or they could bring an extra starter and "piggyback" him with Arrieta, a move that would allow Arrieta to make an abbreviated start during the first week of the season.

"There's a decent chance we open the season with somewhat of a non-traditional 25-man roster, not because we're trying to be cute but because we don't need the fifth starter until the 11th," Klentak said. "We're going to do whatever puts us in the best position to win those first 10 days of the season."

The Phillies made one transaction on Friday. They added utility man Pedro Florimon to the 40-man roster. He had a provision in his minor-league contract that allowed him to become a free agent if he wasn't on the 40-man roster by March 15. Florimon is a candidate for a spot on the Phillies' bench. The move doesn't guarantee that Florimon will win a spot, but it gives the team more time to evaluate him. To make room for Florimon, the Phillies designated infielder Eliezer Alvarez for assignment.

Florimon homered in the Phillies' 6-4 loss to Toronto in Clearwater Friday. Cam Rupp and Cesar Hernandez also homered. Velasquez gave up five hits and a run in 2⅔ innings. He struck out five.

In Lakeland, Pivetta allowed two runs over five innings as the Phils and Tigers played to a 6-6 tie. J.P. Crawford and Ryan Flaherty both homered.