Phillies

Phillies-D-backs 5 things: Timely test for Nick Pivetta

Phillies-D-backs 5 things: Timely test for Nick Pivetta

Phillies (24-50) at Diamondbacks (48-28)
3:40 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

Looking for a split in their four-game, wraparound series with the Diamondbacks, the Phillies send out Nick Pivetta, their hottest starting pitcher.

1. Pivetta on a roll
Pivetta's struck out 19 batters in 13 innings his last two starts, nine Red Sox then 10 Cardinals, both at home.

He pounded the strike zone in both starts better than he had before, trusting his 95 mph-plus fastball and potentially plus breaking ball and improving his sequencing. Against the Red Sox, Pivetta tested a good lineup with upper-90s heat and missed bats. Against the Cardinals, he froze hitters and got them to swing over the top of two-strike breaking balls.

He's induced 15 swinging strikes in each of the last two starts.

Pivetta joined Jerad Eickhoff (2015) as the only Phillies rookie pitchers since Dick Ruthven in 1973 to strike out nine or more in consecutive starts.

This is a bigger challenge. He's facing one of the NL's best lineups in its ideal setting. The D-backs are 28-10 at home and have their ace going.

2. Greinke settling in at Chase
Greinke has fared much better in his second season in the desert. He signed that enormous contract prior to 2016 — six years, $206.5 million — and disappointed in Year 1, going 13-7 with a 4.37 ERA and his lowest strikeout rate in seven seasons.

He enters this start 8-4 with a 3.14 ERA. He's struck out 103 in 97⅓ innings and walked just 19. His opponents have hit .228, including .206 at home. Safe to say he's adjusted to Chase Field.

The Phillies faced Greinke twice last July. He held them to three hits and a run (an Odubel Herrera homer) over eight innings in the first start and exited in the second inning of the other with an oblique strain.

Greinke is always a difficult matchup. Four-seam fastball (90 to 92 mph), slider, changeup, curve, two-seamer and the occasional sloooow curveball in the upper-60s. 

His slider's held hitters to a .168 batting average in 1,845 at-bats over the last decade.

Current Phils are 12 for 58 (.207) off Greinke with just Herrera's homer, two walks and 15 strikeouts. Freddy Galvis is 1 for 12 with 7 K's.

3. Walk-off observers
The Phillies are going to be an opponent featured often in the highlight tapes of other teams in 2017. 

They've been on the losing end of a major-league high eight walk-offs after Sunday's 2-1 loss. It was their MLB-worst 19th loss in a one-run game. The Phils also have the most extra-inning losses with eight. They had just six walk-off losses all of last season.

This is what happens when a comparative lack of talent meets a lack of timely hits meets a lack of first-pitch strikes meets a lack of luck and breaks meets a lack of gopher ball avoidance.

4. At least there's Altherr
Aaron Altherr refuses to let a few bad days turn into a slump. He's no longer in that .330 or even .310 range, but he's settled in between .280 and .290 the last month and if he can do that with power, speed and good defense … that's a valuable player.

Altherr had a three-hit day Sunday with his second triple, to go along with 15 doubles, 12 homers and 39 RBIs. 

He's hitting .284/.352/.524 on the season. His .876 OPS is 40th in baseball. No, doesn't sound like much. But here are the some of the players behind him: Mookie Betts, Robinson Cano, Miguel Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion, Justin Upton, Adam Duvall, Xander Bogaerts, Jose Abreu, Starlin Castro, Matt Carpenter, Andrew McCutchen, Eric Hosmer, on and on.

Altherr is a longshot to make the NL All-Star team but he's the most worthy Phillie after Pat Neshek.

5. This and that
• Edubray Ramos is 0-7 after taking the loss Sunday. Over the last 17 seasons, the only Phillies reliever to lose more games in a season was Brad Lidge (8) during his horrific 2009.

• How many NL players would you take over Paul Goldschmidt the next three to five seasons? Obvious guys like Corey Seager and Bryce Harper. After that? For me, it'd be between Nolan Arenado, Goldschmidt and Freddie Freeman. 

• Cameron Perkins has gotten his at-bats — all but one out of the leadoff spot — but hasn't yet done much with them, going 2 for 22 with no walks and eight strikeouts.

• Here's today's lineup that will face Greinke:

1. Daniel Nava, LF
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Aaron Altherr, RF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Odubel Herrera, CF
6. Andres Blanco, 2B
7. Brock Stassi, 1B
8. Andrew Knapp, C
9. Nick Pivetta, P

MLB Playoffs: Verlander, Astros beat Yankees to force Game 7 in ALCS

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USA Today Images

MLB Playoffs: Verlander, Astros beat Yankees to force Game 7 in ALCS

BOX SCORE

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."