Phillies

Phillies' bullpen slammed in wild loss to Braves

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Phillies' bullpen slammed in wild loss to Braves

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It was only 24 hours ago that the Phillies’ bullpen was being lauded for its part in a three-game sweep of the Miami Marlins.

Suffice it to say that the bullpen did not continue its efficiency on Monday night.

What would have been the Phillies’ best win of the early season ended up as their worst loss when Jake Diekman couldn’t protect a one-run lead in the ninth inning. Atlanta’s Dan Uggla belted a grand slam with one out to lift the Braves to a wild 9-6 win at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).

The Phillies’ clubhouse was a morgue after the game.

The somber mood was understandable. Moments before Uggla’s grand slam, the Phillies, seemingly dead in the water, had rallied for five runs in the bottom of the eighth to take a 6-5 lead. Marlon Byrd drove in two runs in the uprising and Domonic Brown capped it with a three-run homer.

As it turned out, that spirited comeback went for naught.

“For the fans, a game like that, with the back and forth, is fun,” Byrd said afterward. “But for us, it’s just a loss. It’s tough.”

Manager Ryne Sandberg echoed that sentiment.

“It was nice to see the comeback,” he said of the Phillies’ eighth-inning rally (see story). “The guys battled. They showed character. They had good at-bats and we put a five-spot up there. We just weren’t able to close the door in the ninth. There were some big emotion swings there.”

All nine of the Braves’ runs scored on home runs. Evan Gattis gave his team a 2-1 lead with a two-run homer against Phillies starter Roberto Hernandez in the sixth inning.

In the eighth, the Braves went ahead 5-1 on consecutive home runs by Gattis, Uggla and Andrelton Simmons. All three homers came against reliever B.J. Rosenberg. According to baseball researcher Dave Smith of www.retrosheet.org, Rosenberg is likely the first pitcher ever to face just three batters in a game and give up a homer to each one. Smith’s data goes back to 1914 when home runs weren’t common.

Rosenberg was pitching for the third day in a row. He was part of the relief corps that went 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA in Phils’ weekend sweep of the Marlins.

Before the game, Sandberg said he hoped to stay away from Rosenberg, but the pitcher said he was ready to work.

“He said he felt fine,” Sandberg said. “He was throwing 94-95 [mph]. He was just behind in counts.”

Closer Jonathan Papelbon worked all three days against Miami and he was definitely getting the night off. Hence Sandberg’s use of Diekman as the closer.

Diekman walked two of the first three batters he faced. Another reached when Chase Utley couldn’t get an out on a fielder’s choice ground ball.

With one out and the bases full, Diekman threw Uggla an elevated slider and the Braves’ second baseman crushed it to left to pull his team from the jaws of defeat.

For Diekman, pitching in a ninth-inning save situation was a new experience. He didn’t handle it well.

“I tried to not overthink things,” he said. “I kept picking instead of going right after them. I can’t start hitters off 2-0 all the time.”

The Phillies’ bullpen entered the game with a 4.35 ERA. Seven runs later, it had an ERA of 5.53. High ERA isn’t the only problem for the Phils’ bullpen. The innings are already piling up. Only twice in 13 games have the Phillies gotten seven innings from a starting pitcher.

“We’d like to see that change to help our 'pen,” Sandberg said. “We’ve been utilizing out 'pen a lot.”

After the game, the Phillies sent reliever Luis Garcia to Triple A and activated reliever Mike Adams from the disabled list. The Phils hope he gives the bullpen a boost.

Beyond that, it’s getting difficult not to be tempted by what flame-thrower Kenny Giles is doing at Double A Reading. Giles can reach triple digits with his fastball, but control has been a problem throughout his minor-league career. It’s very, very early in his first experience above Single A ball, but Giles is making quick strides. He struck out the side in Reading’s win over Richmond on Monday night. In six innings over five games, Giles has allowed one hit and two walks while striking out 14.

If he keeps that up, he will eventually get a chance to help a Phillies bullpen that couldn’t get the job done Monday night.

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.