Phillies-Athletics observations: Jorge Alfaro powers Phils to 4th win in 5 games

Phillies-Athletics observations: Jorge Alfaro powers Phils to 4th win in 5 games


Jorge Alfaro hit a tiebreaking two-run homer into the center field hedges in the sixth inning and the Phillies used seven pitchers to beat the Oakland Athletics, 5-3, on a soggy Saturday night.

With Rhys Hoskins hogging the attention these days, Alfaro is quietly hitting over .300 and looking comfortable behind the plate. The 24-year-old Colombian pounced on Simon Castro’s first pitch for his fourth homer in his 21st big league game this season. 

The Phillies rallied from a 2-0 deficit following a 1-hour, 46-minute rain delay in the third inning to win for the fourth time in five games. Cesar Hernandez and J.P. Crawford had RBI singles, and Crawford added a sacrifice fly. 

Ben Lively gave up a solo homer to Matt Olson in the first and didn’t return after the rain delay. 

The victory left the Phillies needing to finish 5-9 to avoid 100 losses. 

• After playing shortstop Friday, Crawford was back at third base, and the rookie snagged a hard line drive toward the line in the fifth. He continued to show he can hit big league pitching, with his sharp single to right off Chris Smith in the fourth tying it at 2. 

• Ty Kelly pinch hit for Lively after the delay and his liner to left turned into a double after Olson’s ill-advised dive. He scored on Cesar Hernandez’s two-out single up the middle. 

• Lively allowed two runs and two hits with two strikeouts and no walks in three innings. The weather thwarted another audition as he seeks a spot in next year’s rotation. 

• Odubel Herrera made a fine running catch of Matt Joyce’s deep drive to center to end the eighth. He then was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the inning and promptly stole second. 

• What happens when you combine Sepember baseball with expanded rosters and a lengthy rain delay that knocks out both starters? Seven combined pitchers through five innings and 14 in all. Victor Arano (1-0) pitched two hitless innings and Hector Neris allowed Jed Lowrie’s solo homer in the ninth before earning his 21st save. 

• Shortstop Freddy Galvis started after getting Friday off. He drew a one-out walk and raced to third when Castro (1-3) threw wild to first. But Nick Williams then fanned chasing a high fastball and Hoskins flied to left. 

• Outfielder Aaron Altherr was out of the lineup, but don’t be alarmed. “Just being careful with his hamstring,” manager Pete Mackanin said. "Plus, I’ve got to get everyone into games. It gives (Tommy) Joseph another start.” Joseph started at first and Hoskins was back in left field. 

• It started to rain in the second inning and home plate umpire Jerry Layne called for the tarp in the bottom of the third at 7:45 p.m. Play resumed at 9:31, but not before an amusing rain delay competition featuring right-hander Nick Pivetta (see story)

• Hoskins provided proof of why he’s a natural first baseman and not an outfielder. His throw home on Matt Chapman’s fly to medium left field hit the ground before it reached the pitcher’s mound, allowing Mark Canha to score and make it 2-0 in the second inning. 

• After homering in six straight games, Hoskins is 0 for 6 in the past two. He was upset when Layne rang him up as he tried to check his swing on a pitch in the dirt in the seventh. 

• Keep the remote handy Sunday while you watch the Eagles. Right-hander Henderson Alvarez, who pitched a no-hitter in 2013 and made the NL All-Star team a year later, makes his Phillies debut in his comeback from shoulder problems. Alvarez hasn’t pitched in a big league game since 2015 thanks to multiple surgeries and last month was with the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League (see story). Lefty Sean Manaea (10-10, 4.65 ERA) starts for the A’s. 

• Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Alex Wood and Kenta Maeda are scheduled to pitch for the major league-leading Dodgers when they visit for a four-game series starting Monday. 

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."