Phillies

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).

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 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.