Phillies 8, Tigers 5: Saunders, Hoskins, Rupp go deep; Blanco shines

Phillies 8, Tigers 5: Saunders, Hoskins, Rupp go deep; Blanco shines

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies split their squad and played two games Sunday.

The team that stayed back in Clearwater rallied to beat the Detroit Tigers, 8-5, while the team that bused an hour south to Sarasota lost, 4-3, to the Baltimore Orioles.

The Phils hit three home runs in the two games. Michael Saunders and Rhys Hoskins went deep in Clearwater while Cameron Rupp hit his first homer of the spring in Sarasota.

In Clearwater, the Phils rallied for three runs in the seventh to break a 5-5 tie. Nick Williams' single scored Scott Kingery for the tie-breaking run and Hector Gomez followed with a two-run double on his 29th birthday.

Spring standout Kingery had reached base on a walk and stole second.

Gomez has appeared in the majors with the Rockies and Twins. He played in Korea last year. The Phillies signed him to play third base at Triple A Lehigh Valley this season, and he's making a nice showing so far in Grapefruit League play. He has six hits in 10 at-bats and half of them are doubles.

Gomez took over at third base for Andres Blanco. He, too, had a solid game with a double, a single and an eye-popping defensive play.

Blanco has been a standout utility infielder for the Phillies for three seasons. He was a free agent in the offseason and the team re-signed him to a one-year, $3 million deal.

"He's one of those guys you don't appreciate until the end of the year when you look at how many positions he played and how many big hits and big defensive plays he made," said bench coach Larry Bowa, who skippered the team in Clearwater.

The Phillies had just four hits in Sarasota. In addition to Rupp's homer, the Phils got a double from J.P. Crawford.

On the mound
Clay Buchholz pitched three innings and gave up four runs, all on a pair of homers, in Clearwater.

Nick Pivetta pitched three scoreless innings in Sarasota. He will depart camp this week to pitch for Team Canada in the WBC.

Pullin sidelined
Phillies officials were eager to watch prospect Andrew Pullin swing the bat in this camp, but the 23-year-old corner outfielder missed his sixth straight game Sunday with what was called a mild oblique strain. These injuries can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a month to clear up.

Pullin hit .322 with a .885 OPS in 82 games at Clearwater and Reading last season.

Up next
The Phillies have an off day Monday. They play again Tuesday against the Tigers in Lakeland. Aaron Nola will start for the Phillies and is scheduled to work three innings. Nola, who missed the final two months of last season with an elbow injury, had a strong spring debut last week against Toronto.

Justin Verlander will pitch for the Tigers on Tuesday.

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."