Phillies

Phillies-Dodgers thoughts: Phils can make a statement tonight vs. Yu Darvish

Phillies-Dodgers thoughts: Phils can make a statement tonight vs. Yu Darvish

Phillies (59-91) vs. Dodgers (96-64)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

Nick Pivetta the giant-killer helped the Phillies to a series-opening victory last night in a game the Phillies had no business winning. Despite having the highest ERA in the majors (6.57) among pitchers with at least 100 innings, Pivetta has somehow led the Phillies to wins in games against Clayton Kershaw and Chris Sale, the sport's two best lefties.

The Phils get another tough test tonight in right-hander Yu Darvish, who can be just as unhittable as Kershaw when he's not missing over the middle.

• Aaron Altherr's grand slam last night was the first ever allowed by Kershaw, who has made 302 career starts including the postseason. The Phillies are now the only team against which Kershaw is two games under .500 in his career.

• Altherr this season has eight home runs in 109 plate appearances against lefties. From 2014-16, he had just one homer against lefties in 106 plate appearances.

• Altherr has also homered 12 times in 48 games at Citizens Bank Park this year. One outta four ain't bad.

• Interesting that the Phillies shifted J.P. Crawford to third base last night and brought Cesar Hernandez in to play second once they had the lead. It kind of shows that this coaching staff views Crawford as a better defender than Maikel Franco, which is meaningful moving forward. Crawford made a fantastic running barehand pickup last night to get the Phils a tough out.

• One of the things that makes Darvish so good is that his velocity ranges from about 68 mph with his slow curve to 96 mph with his fastball. He has 9.96 strikeouts per nine innings this season, 11th-most in baseball.

• Aaron Nola (11-10, 3.60) starts tonight for the Phillies, coming off a career-high 11 strikeouts vs. the Marlins. The Dodgers are a very good offensive team but this is still a decent matchup for Nola because of the swing-and-miss in the games of Cody Bellinger, Curtis Gradnerson, Chris Taylor and Yasiel Puig. Look for Nola to attack Bellinger with two-seam fastballs that start inside and come back over the inside corner after Pivetta had success doing so last night.

• Since Aug. 27, the only team in the majors with a lower bullpen ERA than the Phillies is the Cleveland Indians. Luis Garcia fired another scoreless inning last night. He's allowed one run in his last 17 appearances.

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

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."