Phillies 8, Blue Jays 2: J.P. Crawford leads Phillies' offensive outburst

Phillies 8, Blue Jays 2: J.P. Crawford leads Phillies' offensive outburst

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- As J.P. Crawford finishes up his final days before being sent to minor-league camp for the remainder of spring, he is starting to show signs of what he is capable of at the plate.

The shortstop prospect went 2 for 2 with two RBIs against the Blue Jays on Saturday.

It was part of an impressive power output for the Phillies, who hit seven doubles in the 8-2 victory. Cameron Perkins had two doubles and two RBIs, and Nick Williams went 3 for 5 with a double and an RBI.

"Needless to say the hitting was outstanding today," manager Pete Mackanin said. "I wish we could have saved some of those runs for yesterday.

But Crawford's first hit might have been the sweetest of the day because it came with the bases loaded and two outs off Blue Jays reliever J.P. Howell. On Friday, the Phillies loaded the bases three times and failed to score.

"It's good to finally execute at the plate and help my team get some more runs," Crawford said. "Those were insurance runs that we needed."

Crawford bumped his Grapefruit League batting average up to .227 while also improving the quality of his at-bats. Rather than trying to swing for the fences, Crawford is working more at getting good contact and putting balls in play.

"Recently I've been swinging too hard and trying to hit a home run every time," Crawford said. "Today I just tried the send the ball back up the middle, get a base hit and I did."

The refined approach should help Crawford as he readies for the start of the season in Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

"He's going to get a lot of at-bats in Triple-A and hopefully put a lot of good things together," Mackanin said. "I think in Triple-A he's going to … I don't want to say blossom, but he's going to make progress, and once you get that ball rolling good things are going happen."

Florimon shows off the glove
It was Pedro Florimon's first time playing third base but it was hard to tell because of the defensive prowess he showed at the position Saturday.

With a runner on second Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki hit a quick grounder to third that Florimon fielded and made a quick throw to Scott Kingery at second to catch pinch runner Lane Thomas cheating off the base.

"Florimon is really sweet defensively," Mackanin said. "It was his first time playing third and he makes a play there that a lot of guys can't make."

Several Phillies had a strong day in the field, most notably catcher Andrew Knapp, who nailed Kevin Pillar trying to steal second base in the third inning.

Up next
Right-hander Aaron Nola is expected to pitch three to four innings in his start against the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon in Clearwater.

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


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.

Dusty Baker fired by Nationals after 2 NL East titles


Dusty Baker fired by Nationals after 2 NL East titles

WASHINGTON -- Dusty Baker's time as the manager of the Washington Nationals is over after two seasons, two NL East titles and zero playoff series victories.

The Nationals announced Friday that they would not be bringing Baker back. His two-year deal with the club is expiring.

The contracts for the members of Baker's coaching staff also are finished. The team said it will work with its new manager to fill those positions.

The moves come the week after Washington was eliminated from its NL Division Series against the Chicago Cubs with a 9-8 loss at home in Game 5. The Nationals also were bounced from the postseason in the NLDS round in 2016 -- also with a Game 5 loss at home by one run, that time against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

This outcome, essentially, is what Baker was worried about as far back as spring training in February, when he made clear his desire for a new contract, knowing his was up after 2017.

Before the series against the Cubs began, Baker was asked about his possible future in Washington.

"I've given some thought to some things, but we were told that we were waiting until after the season to make a determination," he said at the time. "There's a good chance I'll be back."

He expected negotiations to pick up after the season ended (see full story).

Turner, Taylor repay Dodgers' patience by sharing NLCS MVP
CHICAGO -- Justin Turner and Chris Taylor shared MVP honors in the NL Championship Series, repaying a Dodgers organization willing to roll the dice on players whose big league careers were stalled.

In Turner's case, it was then-bench coach Tim Wallach who rediscovered him playing in a Cal State-Fullerton alumni baseball game four years ago, after his career appeared all but over.

In Taylor's case, it was Los Angeles' willingness to gamble that an offseason of grueling workouts would enable the young utilityman to rebuild his swing in a matter of months.

The co-MVPs turned up in the interview room together after the Dodgers eliminated the reigning World Series champion Chicago Cubs 11-1 in Game 5. They were champagne-soaked with hats turned backward, a pair of goggles still perched on Turner's head. Fittingly, they doused each other with praise.

"He's a dynamic player and a table setter," said Turner, who hit .333 for the series, with two home runs and seven RBIs. "When he goes, we usually go as a team."

"I talk to him as much as I can. He's one of the reasons I decided to make the changes I did," said Taylor, who finished at .316 with two homers and three RBIs. Both men also walked five times, as many as the entire Cubs roster (see full story).

Rare Jackie Robinson rookie jersey up for auction
NEW YORK -- A rare jersey from Jackie Robinson's historic rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers 70 years ago could be available for someone with a few spare millions.

The jersey, part of a Heroes of Sports offering by Heritage Auctions, has been certified by Mears, one of the top memorabilia authentication companies. It is accompanied by a letter from Robinson's widow, Rachel, saying it is the one brought home by the Hall of Famer at the end of the 1947 season, when he became the first black player in the majors and earned Rookie of the Year honors.

"This is the only one known from the `47 season, the only one that survived," Chris Ivy, Heritage's director of sports auctions, told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "It stayed in his closet for five decades plus until it was eventually sold to a private collector in the early 2000s."

The online auction opened Friday and closes at 11 p.m. on Nov. 19. The entire collection is from one owner and can be viewed on Heritage's website. Other items available for bidding include Babe Ruth's pants from the Hall of Fame induction in 1939, Keith Hernandez's 1978 Gold Glove award, a Wilt Chamberlain jersey from 1966, Bill Vukovich's Indianapolis 500 trophy from 1953 and Muhammad Ali's shoes from his fight against Ken Norton in 1973.

Ivy said the Robinson jersey has been valued at more than $3 million. He wouldn't be surprised to see it exceed that.

"It's tough to estimate a piece like this -- it's a one of a kind," he said. "As far as collectibles a rookie (jersey) is always sought after, something that's significant."