Phillies

Phillies-Dodgers observations: Aaron Altherr's big night powers 3rd straight win

Phillies-Dodgers observations: Aaron Altherr's big night powers 3rd straight win

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The Phillies continue to make baseball fun as they head toward the finish line of their fifth straight losing season.
 
They rallied for their eighth win in the last 11 games in beating the Los Angeles Dodgers, 7-5, at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night.
 
The Phillies have taken the first three games of the series against the team with baseball's best record. All three wins have been come-from-behind efforts.
 
Aaron Altherr, the hero of Monday night's win against three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, was a key contributor again in this one. He drove in four runs late in the game with a two-run homer in the seventh and a tie-breaking, two-run single in the eighth inning.
 
• The Phillies' bullpen, which had been so good lately, blew leads of 2-1 and 5-4, but the offense overcame those issues.
 
• Despite having the second-worst record in the majors, the Phillies are 32-33 since the All-Star break.
 
• The game ended with Phillies centerfielder Odubel Herrera making a tremendous leaping catch at the wall on a bullet by Yasiel Puig. Herrera struck out three times at the plate, but showed maturity in not taking his struggles into the field.
 
• Cesar Hernandez started the Phillies' eighth-inning rally by working a walk against Luis Avilan. Avilan then made an errant throw to help set up Altherr's big single.
 
• Hector Neris pitched for the third night in a row and earned his second save of the series.
 
• The Dodgers rallied for three runs against the Phillies' bullpen to take a 4-2 lead in the top of the seventh. The Phillies got the runs back quickly in the bottom of the inning. Rhys Hoskins continued to do things to help the team win when he led off with a walk against right-hander Ross Stripling. Stripling then threw two hanging curveballs and Altherr and Tommy Joseph deposited them in the left-field seats to give the Phillies the lead. Joseph, pushed into the background by Hoskins' emergence, had a two-RBI night.
 
• Phillies starter Jake Thompson gave up just one run but was not economical enough with his pitches to get past the fifth inning. Thompson allowed six base runners on three hits and three walks and got outs on several long fly balls. He walked two batters in the fifth, got a visit from pitching coach Bob McClure then got the final two outs on a pair of groundballs. He hung a full-count slider to Justin Turner with two outs, but Turner grounded it to short for the third out. Thompson survived and exited the game with a 2-1 lead.
 
• Chase Utley did not start for the Dodgers, but he entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the top of the seventh with the Dodgers behind, 2-1. Facing rookie right-hander Victor Arano, Utley showed that famous short, chop swing in lacing a triple off the center-field wall.
 
• Arano was originally Dodgers' property. He came over to the Phillies late in the 2014 season in a trade for pitcher Roberto Hernandez. After Utley tripled, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts sent up left-handed hitting Andre Ethier to bat in the pitcher's spot. Pete Mackanin responded by waving lefty Hoby Milner into the game. Roberts went back to his bench and replaced Ethier with Kike Hernandez, a right-handed bat. Milner is a side-armer who struggles against right-handed bats (they were 19 for 46 against him while lefty hitters were 9 for 54). The results were predictable; Hernandez doubled home Ultey with the tying run. Milner did get to face a lefty hitter later in the inning and NL Rookie of the Year slam dunk Cody Bellinger broke the tie with a two-run double. Despite the difficult inning, Milner has made a nice showing and put himself on the map this season. He had not allowed a run in 21 straight appearances before being charged with two.
 
• The series concludes with a Thursday matinee. Mark Leiter Jr. (3-6, 4.93) pitches for the Phillies against Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda (12-6, 4.91).

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).