Phillies

Phillies 11, Tigers 6: Sizzling Brock Stassi belts grand slam; Aaron Nola rusty but healthy

Phillies 11, Tigers 6: Sizzling Brock Stassi belts grand slam; Aaron Nola rusty but healthy

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LAKELAND, Fla. -- Brock Stassi's candidacy to win a spot on the Phillies' opening day roster seems to get stronger by the day.

The 27-year-old career minor-leaguer (see story) hit his third homer of the spring -- a grand slam -- to lead the Phillies' 11-6 win over the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday.

Stassi went 2 for 4 on the day and also walked and scored three runs. He is hitting .563 (9 for 16) with 11 RBIs and has played sound defense at first base and in left field. He is attempting to make the club as a backup at both positions.

"He's having a great spring," manager Pete Mackanin said. "He's making a bid for making this team. He's really looked good and is making a real good impression. He's doing everything right."

Stassi, a lefty hitter, drew a walk against Tigers ace Justin Verlander in the second inning and scored on a base hit by Pedro Florimon.

The grand slam came in the sixth inning against lefty Blaine Hardy. Stassi turned on a 2-1 fastball and lined it over the right-field wall with a short, quick stroke.

"I knew he had to come in with something," Stassi said. "He threw me a couple of off-speed pitches early and I knew he didn't want to go 3-1 with the bases loaded. I was sitting fastball and got it."

Some folks don't put much stock in spring training stats. These are, after all, exhibition games.

But for Stassi, they count. Big time.

"Guys always talk about saving it for the season, but for me there are no guarantees," Stassi said. "It's life or death out there for me right now and I'm just trying to stay positive and have quality at-bats and keep things rolling.

"Today is over. Come back tomorrow and get back to work."

Stassi is scheduled to start in left field against the Braves on Wednesday as Mackanin and the coaching staff evaluate him at the position.

Nola rusty
Aaron Nola wasn't particularly sharp in his second spring outing, but the right-hander is not necessarily being graded on results.

What matters most is his health and after four spring innings, well …

"I really feel good," he said.

Nola missed the final two months of 2016 with an elbow strain, but he has no health-related limits this spring. He was scheduled to bump up to three innings on Tuesday, but a high pitch count in the first inning scuttled that. He ended up going two innings and giving up five hits, a walk and two runs. He struck out two. He threw 40 pitches.

"The plan was to go three, but I was spotty today and the pitch count got up pretty fast," Nola said.

"My command was off. I was missing over the plate on some pitches, but other than that I felt good. My arm felt good. My body felt good."

Mackanin was not alarmed by Nola's outing. He, too, is looking for good health.

"He looked a little rusty," Mackanin said. "He wasn't as bad as you think he was. He was just missing. (Catcher Ryan) Hanigan told me a lot of those pitches were pretty good pitches, so I was happy with that."

Nola pitched two scoreless innings against Toronto in his spring debut last week (see story).

The game
The Phillies' bats exploded for 13 hits. Bryan Holaday also homered for the Phils.

Colton Murray, Jeanmar Gomez, Ben Lively and Cesar Ramos all pitched scoreless ball. Michael Mariot had to close it out after the Tigers rallied for four runs against Pedro Beato in the ninth.

Eflin, Thompson ramp up
Pitchers Zach Eflin and Jake Thompson both threw to hitters for the first time this spring on Tuesday and they could be ready for some game action next week.

The team has taken things slowly with both pitchers. Eflin had double knee surgery in the fall and Thompson reported to camp with a sore right wrist. Both are healthy now.

"I'm head over heels better than I've ever felt in my life," said Eflin, who had battled knee tendinitis for years. "I can't remember the last time that I felt like this. It's just a blessing. There's no pain at all."

Both pitchers project to be in the Triple A rotation, though it's unclear whether they will be ready to open the season in a month. It's quite possible that the Phillies will give Eflin a little extra time as he continues to build strength in his legs.

Up next
The Phillies play the Braves at Disney on Thursday afternoon. Jeremy Hellickson will start for the Phils. Here is the Phillies' posted lineup for the game:

Cesar Hernandez, 2B
Freddy Galvis, SS
Daniel Nava, DH
Maikel Franco, 3B
Tommy Joseph, 1B
Cameron Rupp, C
Brock Stassi, LF
Dylan Cozens, RF
Roman Quinn, CF

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).

MLB Playoffs: Justin Turner hits walk-off HR to give Dodgers 2-0 lead over Cubs

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MLB Playoffs: Justin Turner hits walk-off HR to give Dodgers 2-0 lead over Cubs

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LOS ANGELES -- Justin Turner hit a three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 4-1 on Sunday to take a 2-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.

The red-bearded slugger connected on the 29th anniversary of the Dodgers' last game-ending postseason homer: Kirk Gibson's famous pinch-hit drive to beat Oakland in the 1988 World Series opener.

"One of my earliest baseball memories, I was 4 years old at my grandma's house watching that game in `88 and seeing Gibby hit that homer," a smiling Turner said. "So yeah, it feels pretty cool. I thought about doing the fist pump around the bases, but we'll wait until we get to the World Series for that, hopefully."

Turner drove in every run for Los Angeles, going the other way for a tying single in the fifth before sending a long shot to center field off John Lackey in the ninth. A fan wearing a blue Dodgers jersey reached over a railing to catch the ball on the fly.

Turner's second homer of the postseason ended another dramatic night for the Dodgers, who remained unbeaten in these playoffs and moved within two wins of their first World Series appearance since 1988.

"It's very cool, and J.T., we were talking about it in there after the game," manager Dave Roberts said. "Twenty-nine years to the day. It was special. Our guys feel it."

Game 3 in the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Midseason acquisition Yu Darvish starts for the Dodgers against Kyle Hendricks.

Yasiel Puig drew his third walk of the game leading off the ninth, and Charlie Culberson bunted him to second. After losing pitcher Brian Duensing struck out pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer, Chicago manager Joe Maddon went to the bullpen for the 38-year-old Lackey, who pitched on consecutive days for the first time in his 15-year career.

Lackey got the call over All-Star closer Wade Davis, and the veteran starter walked Chris Taylor on six tense pitches.

Turner stepped up and ended it with his fourth career playoff homer. He's been at his best in October, batting .377 with 22 RBIs in the postseason.

"We've been doing it all year long," Turner said. "We're never out of a game. As long as we have outs left, we're going to keep fighting."

Completing the poetry of the moment, a fan in a Chase Utley jersey in the center-field bleachers caught the ball in his glove.

Addison Russell homered in the fifth for the Cubs, who are down early in this rematch of the 2016 NLCS. Chicago won that series in six games and went on to its first World Series championship since 1908, while the Dodgers have been absent from the Fall Classic since 1988.

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen got the victory with a hitless ninth despite hitting Anthony Rizzo on the hand with a one-out pitch. That ended the Los Angeles bullpen's impressive streak of 22 straight Cubs retired to begin the NLCS, but the Dodgers have thrown eight hitless and scoreless innings of relief in the NLCS.

After a collective offensive effort drove the Dodgers to a 5-2 win in Game 1, Turner did it all in Game 2. He has 10 RBIs in the Dodgers' five postseason games, getting five in the playoff opener against Arizona.

Jon Lester yielded three hits and five walks while failing to get out of the fifth inning in the shortest start of his long postseason career, but the Dodgers couldn't take advantage of a rare shaky night by the Cubs' star left-hander.

Rich Hill struck out eight in five more impressive innings for the Dodgers, but he was pulled for pinch-hitter Curtis Granderson in the fifth in a debatable decision by Roberts.

Russell was off to a 4-for-22 start in the postseason with nine strikeouts before the slugging shortstop put a leadoff homer into the short porch in left field.

Turner evened it moments later by poking a single to right after a leadoff double by Culberson, the Dodgers' improbably successful replacement for injured All-Star shortstop Corey Seager.

The Dodgers chased Lester with two outs in the fifth, but reliever Carl Edwards Jr. came through after several recent postseason struggles, striking out pinch-hitter Chase Utley and then pitching a strong sixth.

Lester was the co-MVP of last season's NLCS, winning Game 5 at Dodger Stadium and yielding two runs over 13 innings in the series. He had nothing near the same success against the Dodgers' revamped lineup in this one, issuing four walks in the first four innings and repeatedly escaping jams.

Dodgers third base coach Chris Woodward held up Turner in the third when it appeared he could have scored from first on Cody Bellinger's double to the gap.

Javier Baez, the other co-MVP of last season's NLCS for Chicago, got to third base in the third with one out but also was stranded.

Up next
Cubs: Hendricks dominated Chicago's playoff opener with seven scoreless innings against the Nationals, but yielded four runs in four innings during the team's wild Game 5 victory in Washington. He is starting on normal rest.

Dodgers: Darvish was outstanding in Game 3 against the Diamondbacks, earning his first career postseason victory with seven strikeouts over five innings of two-hit ball. He was acquired