Phillies

Phillies collapse in ninth inning of loss to Padres

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Phillies collapse in ninth inning of loss to Padres

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SAN DIEGO -- If you hadn’t already given up on the 2013 Phillies, this one might have pushed you over the edge.

In what may have been the worst loss in a season that has already included way too many ugly defeats, the Phillies blew a three-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning and went on to lose 4-3 to the San Diego Padres in the bottom of the 10th inning Monday night (see Instant Replay).

Cliff Lee was masterful for eight innings, but his gem began to unravel in the span of three pitches in the ninth. In the blink of an eye, Jonathan Papelbon allowed a two-run single and hit a batter and Carlos Ruiz was charged with a game-tying passed ball with two outs. The ugliness continued in the bottom of the 10th when Justin De Fratus walked two batters and hit another to set up the game-winning hit by Kyle Blanks, the same guy who drove in two with a single against Papelbon in the ninth.

The loss dropped the Phillies to five games under .500, matching a season low, and left manager Charlie Manuel searching for answers as he nursed a monster head cold/ear infection that required medical attention earlier in the day.

“It’s tough,” he said. “That’s a tough one.”

Manuel’s voice, raspy and weak, trailed off.

“We’re supposed to win the game,” he said.

This one?

Yep.

Lee was at 109 pitches and Papelbon was warm in the bullpen when Manuel stuck with the left-hander to open the bottom of the ninth with his team up, 3-0. Three pitches in, the Padres had runners at second and third thanks to a single and a double and Manuel was on his way to the mound to get Lee.

It’s always a little easier for a reliever to enter a clean inning. Why didn’t Manuel go to Papelbon to start the frame?

“I wanted to send Lee back out there,” Manuel said. “Pap had a lot of work last week and Lee was pitching a good game. I was waging a lot of things. But evidently I didn’t make the right choice.”

Papelbon’s fourth blown save in eight days became official when Ruiz could not handle a 2-0 splitter with two outs and Mark Kotsay at the plate. The passed ball allowed Blanks to score the tying run from third.

Ruiz said the pitch was one he should have caught.

“(Bleep) happens,” said Papelbon, using an expression that might be a good title for this season’s highlight video.

The tying run was unearned.

“A blown save is a blown save no matter which way you look at it,” Papelbon said.

This one was particularly difficult because it came on a night when Lee pitched so well. He carried a shutout into the ninth and ended up allowing two runs and a walk while striking out seven.

Lee contributed to the ninth-inning unraveling by allowing a single and a double on the first three pitches he threw in the inning.

“I wanted to stay in the game and I’m glad I got the chance,” he said. “I felt like I made good pitches (in the ninth). They just put good swings on them.

“I don’t know what to say. I felt like I pitched a good game and gave us a chance to win. It just didn’t happen.”

The Phillies entered the game with the worst bullpen ERA (4.67) in the majors and lived up to it with Papelbon and De Fratus combining on three walks and two hit batsmen in 1 1/3 innings.

De Fratus called the loss “heartbreaking” because of the way Lee pitched.

“It just fell apart at the end,” De Fratus said. “It’s tough.”

A loss Tuesday night would put the Phils a season-high six games under .500. The Phils are 17-23 on the road with nine more games left on this trip.

It’s difficult to imagine this thing turning around, but Lee maintains hope.

“That’s the only way I can look at it,” he said. “I expect us to come in tomorrow and win, and the next day the same thing. That’s the only way to look at it.”

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.

Dusty Baker fired by Nationals after 2 NL East titles

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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."