Phillies

Phillies-Athletics observations: Henderson Alvarez's debut, Rhys Hoskins hitless again in loss

Phillies-Athletics observations: Henderson Alvarez's debut, Rhys Hoskins hitless again in loss

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A local kid did in the Phillies on Sunday.

Joey Wendle, who starred at West Chester University and Avon Grove High School, belted a go-ahead grand slam off Edubray Ramos in the sixth inning to lead the Oakland Athletics to a 6-3 victory. 

It was the second career homer for the 27-year-old Wendle, coming one year to the day after he went deep against Yu Darvish in Texas. 

The second baseman’s blast to right in front of family and friends at Citizens Bank Park spoiled a decent return to the big leagues for former All-Star right-hander Henderson Alvarez. 

Maikel Franco went 3 for 4 and drove in two runs for the Phillies, who dropped two of three in the series. 

Chad Pinder and Matt Olson hit back-to-back homers in the fourth against Alvarez, who threw a no-hitter for the Marlins in 2013 and was an All-Star a year later before multiple shoulder surgeries. He hadn’t pitched in the big leagues since May 22, 2015. 

• Alvarez (0-1) went five-plus innings and left with a 3-2 lead after giving up a walk and single to lead off the sixth. He was charged with four runs on four hits with two walks and four strikeouts. He certainly pitched well enough to earn another start as he auditions for a 2018 job. 

• Alvarez became the 31st player to pitch for the Phillies this season, a new record besting the 30 hurlers in 2015. 

• Relying on a fastball that topped out at 93 mph, Alvarez looked smooth while retiring the first five batters. He didn’t allow a hit until Marcus Semien’s two-out double in the third. 

• Pinder crushed Alvarez’s hanging curve for his 15th homer to lead off the fourth and Olson followed by homering to right on a 91 mph fastball to tie it at 2. 

• Olson certainly out-Hoskined Rhys Hoskins in the series. The rookie homered in all three games and has 21 in 53 games compared to 18 in 37 games for Hoskins. Olson has four homers in five games, six in eight and 13 in 19. He has hit 10 in September. 

• Hoskins flung his bat in disgust after flying out to right against Sean Manaea (11-10) in the fifth. He was 0 for 5 with three strikeouts and fanned six times while going 0 for 11 in the series. 

• Left-hander Hoby Milner replaced Alvarez with two on and nobody out in the sixth and struck out Olson to extend his streak of scoreless appearances to 21 games (see story)

• Ramos (2-8) replaced Milner and struck out Matt Chapman and walked Mark Canha to load the bases before Wendle crushed a first-pitch slider. 

• The A’s showed why they’re the worst defensive team in baseball. Chapman had two errors at third base to boost the A’s MLB-high total to 118. Chapman booted Aaron Altherr’s two-out grounder in the first that led to two unearned runs. 

• J.P. Crawford, who drove in two runs while playing third base Saturday, started at shortstop as Freddy Galvis was out of the starting lineup for the second time in three games. Crawford moved up to second in the order and went 0 for 2 with three walks. 

• Aaron Altherr was back in center field after resting his hamstring Saturday and hit cleanup. Manager Pete Mackanin inserted him between Hoskins and Nick Williams. 

• Alvarez began the game with almost all fastballs — until throwing a 53.6 mph Eephus pitch to Olson in the second that was taken for a ball. 

• The Phillies, before the game, honored A’s equipment manager Steve Vucinich. He’s been with the team 50 years, joining the club just 13 years after it left Philadelphia. The only other person to be the franchise longer: Connie Mack. 

• Former Phillies star Chase Utley returns to town Monday night with the major league-leading Los Angeles Dodgers to start a four-game series. Utley had three doubles in the past two games and was hitting .234 with eight homers before a Sunday night game at Washington. 

• Pitching matchups for the Dodgers series: Monday: LH Clayton Kershaw (17-3, 2.12 ERA) vs RH Nick Pivetta (5-10, 6.75). Tuesday: RH Yu Darvish (9-12, 4.08) vs. RH Aaron Nola (11-10, 3.60). Wednesday: LH Alex Wood (15-3, 2.69) vs. RH Jake Thompson (2-2, 4.46). Thursday: RH Kenta Maeda (12-6, 4.21) vs. RH Mark Leiter Jr. (3-6, 4.93). 

Astros reach World Series, shut out Yankees in ALCS Game 7

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Astros reach World Series, shut out Yankees in ALCS Game 7

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HOUSTON -- Jose Altuve embraced Justin Verlander as confetti rained down. An improbable thought just a few years ago, the Houston Astros are headed to the World Series.

Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers combined on a three-hitter, Altuve and Evan Gattis homered and the Astros reached the World Series for only the second time by blanking the New York Yankees 4-0 Saturday night in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Next up for the Astros: Game 1 against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Los Angeles opened as a narrow favorite, but Verlander, the ALCS MVP, and fellow Houston ace Dallas Keuchel will have plenty of rest before the World Series begins at sweltering Dodger Stadium.

"I love our personality," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We have the right amount of fun, the right amount of seriousness, the right amount of perspective when we need it. This is a very, very unique group. To win 100 games and still be hungry is pretty remarkable."

The Astros will try for their first World Series title, thanks in large part to Altuve, the diminutive second baseman who swings a potent bat, and Verlander, who switched teams for the first time in his career to chase a ring.

Four years removed from their third straight 100-loss season in 2013, the Astros shut down the Yankees on consecutive nights after dropping three in a row in the Bronx.

The only previous time the Astros made it this far, they were a National League team when they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in 2005.

Hinch's club has a chance to win that elusive first crown, while trying to boost a region still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

"This city, they deserve this," McCullers said.

Clutch defensive plays by third baseman Alex Bregman and center fielder George Springer helped Houston improve to 6-0 at Minute Maid Park in these playoffs and become the fifth team in major league history to capture a seven-game postseason series by winning all four of its home games.

Morton bounced back from a loss in Game 3 to allow two hits over five scoreless innings. Starter-turned-postseason reliever McCullers limited the Yankees to just one hit while fanning six over the next four. A noted curveballer, McCullers finished up with 24 straight breaking pitches to earn his first major league save.

Combined, they throttled the wild-card Yankees one last time in Houston. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and their New York teammates totaled just three runs in the four road games.

"I know people are going to talk about how we didn't win many games on the road. There were some other teams that haven't won many games on the road, either. We just happened to run into a very good team that just beat us," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

The Astros also eliminated New York in the 2015 postseason, with Keuchel winning the AL wild-card game at Yankee Stadium.

CC Sabathia entered 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts this season after a Yankees loss. But he struggled with command and was gone with one out in the fourth inning.

Houston was up 2-0 in fifth when former Yankees star Brian McCann came through for the second straight game by hitting a two-run double. He snapped an 0-for-20 skid with an ground-rule RBI double to give Houston its first run on Friday night in a 7-1 win.

The Yankees, trying to reach the World Series for the first time since 2009, lost an elimination game for the first time this season after winning their first four in these playoffs. New York went 1-6 on the road this postseason.

After going 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position through the first three innings, the Astros got on the board with no outs in the fourth with the 405-foot shot by Gattis.

Altuve launched a ball off Tommy Kahnle into the seats in right field with one out in the fifth for his fifth homer this postseason. It took a while for him to see that it was going to get out, and held onto his bat until he was halfway to first base before flipping it and trotting around the bases as chants of "MVP" rained down on him.

Altuve finished 8 for 25 with two homers and four RBIs in the ALCS after hitting .533 with three homers and four RBIs in the ALDS against Boston.

Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel hit consecutive singles before Kahnle struck out Gattis. McCann's two-strike double, which rolled into the corner of right field, cleared the bases to push the lead to 4-0. Gurriel slid to avoid the tag and remained on his belly in a swimming pose at the plate for a few seconds after he was called safe.

It was just the second Game 7 in franchise history for the Astros, who lost to the Cardinals in the 2004 NLCS exactly 13 years earlier.

Sabathia allowed five hits and one run while walking three in 3 1/3 innings. He wasn't nearly as sharp as he was in a Game 3 win and just 36 of the 65 pitches he threw were strikes.

Morton got into trouble in the fifth, and the Yankees had runners at the corners with one out. Bregman fielded a grounder hit by Todd Frazier and made a perfect throw home to allow McCann to tag Greg Bird and preserve Houston's lead. McCann held onto the ball despite Bird's cleat banging into his forearm. Chase Headley grounded out after that to end the inning.

A night after Springer kept Frazier from extra-bases with a leaping catch, Judge returned the favor on a ball hit by Yuli Gurriel. Judge sprinted, jumped and reached into the stands to grab his long fly ball before crashing into the wall and falling to the ground for the first out of the second inning.

Springer had another nifty catch in this one, jumping in front of Marwin Gonzalez at the wall in left-center to grab a ball hit by Bird for the first out of the seventh.

With McCullers in charge, the Astros soon closed it out.

"It's not easy to get here. And I don't take any of this for granted. And this is what we play for," Verlander said. "These are the experiences that you remember at the end of your career when you look back, winning these games, just playing the World Series. Hopefully winning the World Series."

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

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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.