Phillies

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

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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: Javier Baez snaps out of funk to help Cubs avoid sweep

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MLB Playoffs: Javier Baez snaps out of funk to help Cubs avoid sweep

CHICAGO -- Javier Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and the Chicago Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

Jake Arrieta pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning to held the defending World Series champion Cubs close their deficit to 3-1. Manager Joe Maddon got ejected for the second time in this series in the eighth, and a packed Wrigley Field crowd watched Davis get Cody Bellinger to ground into a game-ending double play.

Maddon was heavily criticized for not using Davis during a 4-1 loss in Game 2. This time, the Cubs closer threw 48 pitches to finish the job.

Willson Contreras also homered for the Cubs. Bellinger and Justin Turner connected for the Dodgers, who had won a team-record six straight playoff games.

Game 5 is Thursday, with Jose Quintana pitching for Chicago against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (see full recap).

Tanaka, Yankees blank Astros to take ALCS lead
NEW YORK -- Masahiro Tanaka pitched seven innings of three-hit ball and the New York Yankees finally solved Houston Astros nemesis Dallas Keuchel, beating the ace lefty 5-0 on Wednesday for a 3-2 lead in the AL Championship Series.

Gary Sanchez hit an RBI single off Keuchel and later homered to help the wild-card Yankees win for the third straight day at home and move within one victory of their first trip to the World Series since 2009.

The teams head back to Houston for Game 6 on Friday night, when Justin Verlander and the reeling Astros will try to regain their footing following an off day and force a decisive Game 7. Luis Severino is scheduled to start for New York.

Just days ago, Houston was up two games to none and appeared to be closing in on its second World Series appearance. But the Astros, like defending AL champion Cleveland before them, have been unable to put away these poised Yankees, who improved to 6-0 at home in this postseason in front of their cheering, chanting fans (see full recap).

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).