Phillies-Mets 5 things: Red-hot Aaron Nola duels ice-cold Steven Matz

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Phillies-Mets 5 things: Red-hot Aaron Nola duels ice-cold Steven Matz

Phillies (42-71) vs. Mets (52-61)
7:05 p.m. on NBC 10; streaming live on and the NBC Sports App

When it comes to facing the Mets, the Phillies can't seem to catch a break. A 3-0 lead? Evaporated. A late comeback? Not enough. Even a rookie shortstop got in on it as the Mets grabbed a 7-6 win Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.

If there's a pitcher the Phils would want to face the rival Metropolitans, it's Aaron Nola, who comes into Saturday hot as can be. He'll take on Steven Matz in a matchup of two starters going opposite directions.

Here are five things to know for Saturday night's game:

1. Nola continues to roll
We're running out of words to properly describe Nola, who has had inarguably the best nine-game stretch of his career coming into tonight's game. 

In 61 1/3 innings, he's allowed just 47 hits and 17 walks, struck out 70 batters and given up just 12 runs, good for a 1.76 ERA. He's held opponents to a .207/.262/.317 batting line while throwing filthy curveballs backed up with a devilish two-seamer. This is the Aaron Nola the Phillies thought they would get in the 2014 draft.

In those nine starts, he's gone at least six innings every time while allowing no more than two runs. He had nine starts prior to this run (which began June 22 vs. the Cardinals) and he failed to reach those milestones in all but three games. 

For the season, Nola has brought his ERA down to 3.12. According to Baseball Reference, Nola has produced 3.6 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) this season after being worth 0.0 WAR last year. That's right: He was at replacement level, no better than the average call-up from Triple A. Now he's pitching like a front-end starter.

Nola won his only start vs. the Mets this year, lasting just five innings while allowing four runs. A three-run homer by Neil Walker was the big blow. Four Mets have two hits in five or fewer ABs against Nola: Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Rene Rivera and Asdrubal Cabrera. Only Conforto and Walker have home runs off the righty.

2. Floor Matz
If you're going to sum up Matz's season in one word, it would be: troubling. The 26-year-old left-hander hasn't lived up to the promise of his first two seasons this year. He comes into tonight with a 5.77 ERA in 57 2/3 innings across 11 starts. 

He's allowed 11.2 hits per inning, a career worst, while his strikeouts per nine innings have fallen from 8.8 to 6.7, an ominous sign. 

Contrast that with his first two seasons, when he had a 3.16 ERA over 168 innings while striking out 163 batters and allowing only 183 baserunners. He's not an overpowering pitcher, but that doesn't make 2017 any less worrisome.

His struggles are perhaps under the radar with higher profile starters (Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey) going down with injuries, but they are nonetheless very real. 

A lot of it could be due to injuries. He ended last season with shoulder tightness followed by surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow. This came six years after he underwent Tommy John surgery before he made his professional debut. He missed the first two months of this season with a flexor tendon strain.

The lefty works off a 94-mph sinker (down one mph from last season) while mixing in a high-70s curveball and mid-80s changeup. His change has been his most effective pitch this season while his curveball has fooled hitters a little less in 2017.

A surprising note: He's never faced the Phillies despite making 39 starts as an NL East pitcher. He's faced each of the other division opponents at least four times.

3. Hammer and a nail
The Mets' and Phillies' relationship over the last three years can be characterized as similar to that of a hammer and a nail. In other words, it's been a little one-sided.

With Friday's 7-6 defeat, the Phils are 3-8 against New York this season while being outscored, 61-47. This comes after going 12-26 against them the last two seasons. Part of it is surely bad luck/timing (a lot of games last September when the Phillies' pitching staff cratered with injuries and Jeanmar Gomez's struggles came to a head). Yet the matchup has also shown a clear difference between two franchises.

The Phillies certainly would have expected to close the gap some this season, and there is still that opportunity over the last 1 1/2 months. They have eight more games left this season, including six next month. 

The Mets won't be gunning for the postseason this year and will have less incentive to go for wins. They'll instead be looking towards development and will thus be playing their younger players (the Phils are all too familiar now with Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith). 

Now 29 games under .500, how the Phillies perform in the division over the last 1 1/2 months will go a long way toward defining how successful their second half will be. They've struggled with teams not named the Braves this season and respectable showings against the Mets, Marlins and Nationals will be key to going out of 2017 on a high note.

4. Players to watch:
Phillies: Facing Matz, Rhys Hoskins will battle against a LHP for the first time in MLB. He actually had a little bit of a reverse platoon split this season in Triple A but hit lefties better at every other level in the minors. 

MetsCespedes hit another homer against Phillies pitching Friday, giving him 13 in 35 games vs. the Phils in his career. Nine of those homers have come at CBP, where he hits .274/.342/.740 in 82 plate appearances.

5. This and that
• After pitching with a relatively fast pace through his first two seasons, Nola has been slower on the mound in 2017, taking 25.8 seconds between pitches. That's 2.1 seconds more than his career average. 

• Matz has allowed 29 home runs in his career and 27 of those have come against right-handed batters. 

• Through 34 games, Nick Williams is batting .295/.336/.519 in 129 plate appearances. With his next two at-bats, he'll have exceeded the rookie limit.

MLB Playoffs: Justin Turner hits walk-off HR to give Dodgers 2-0 lead over Cubs

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MLB Playoffs: Justin Turner hits walk-off HR to give Dodgers 2-0 lead over Cubs


LOS ANGELES -- Justin Turner hit a three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 4-1 on Sunday to take a 2-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.

The red-bearded slugger connected on the 29th anniversary of the Dodgers' last game-ending postseason homer: Kirk Gibson's famous pinch-hit drive to beat Oakland in the 1988 World Series opener.

"One of my earliest baseball memories, I was 4 years old at my grandma's house watching that game in `88 and seeing Gibby hit that homer," a smiling Turner said. "So yeah, it feels pretty cool. I thought about doing the fist pump around the bases, but we'll wait until we get to the World Series for that, hopefully."

Turner drove in every run for Los Angeles, going the other way for a tying single in the fifth before sending a long shot to center field off John Lackey in the ninth. A fan wearing a blue Dodgers jersey reached over a railing to catch the ball on the fly.

Turner's second homer of the postseason ended another dramatic night for the Dodgers, who remained unbeaten in these playoffs and moved within two wins of their first World Series appearance since 1988.

"It's very cool, and J.T., we were talking about it in there after the game," manager Dave Roberts said. "Twenty-nine years to the day. It was special. Our guys feel it."

Game 3 in the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Midseason acquisition Yu Darvish starts for the Dodgers against Kyle Hendricks.

Yasiel Puig drew his third walk of the game leading off the ninth, and Charlie Culberson bunted him to second. After losing pitcher Brian Duensing struck out pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer, Chicago manager Joe Maddon went to the bullpen for the 38-year-old Lackey, who pitched on consecutive days for the first time in his 15-year career.

Lackey got the call over All-Star closer Wade Davis, and the veteran starter walked Chris Taylor on six tense pitches.

Turner stepped up and ended it with his fourth career playoff homer. He's been at his best in October, batting .377 with 22 RBIs in the postseason.

"We've been doing it all year long," Turner said. "We're never out of a game. As long as we have outs left, we're going to keep fighting."

Completing the poetry of the moment, a fan in a Chase Utley jersey in the center-field bleachers caught the ball in his glove.

Addison Russell homered in the fifth for the Cubs, who are down early in this rematch of the 2016 NLCS. Chicago won that series in six games and went on to its first World Series championship since 1908, while the Dodgers have been absent from the Fall Classic since 1988.

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen got the victory with a hitless ninth despite hitting Anthony Rizzo on the hand with a one-out pitch. That ended the Los Angeles bullpen's impressive streak of 22 straight Cubs retired to begin the NLCS, but the Dodgers have thrown eight hitless and scoreless innings of relief in the NLCS.

After a collective offensive effort drove the Dodgers to a 5-2 win in Game 1, Turner did it all in Game 2. He has 10 RBIs in the Dodgers' five postseason games, getting five in the playoff opener against Arizona.

Jon Lester yielded three hits and five walks while failing to get out of the fifth inning in the shortest start of his long postseason career, but the Dodgers couldn't take advantage of a rare shaky night by the Cubs' star left-hander.

Rich Hill struck out eight in five more impressive innings for the Dodgers, but he was pulled for pinch-hitter Curtis Granderson in the fifth in a debatable decision by Roberts.

Russell was off to a 4-for-22 start in the postseason with nine strikeouts before the slugging shortstop put a leadoff homer into the short porch in left field.

Turner evened it moments later by poking a single to right after a leadoff double by Culberson, the Dodgers' improbably successful replacement for injured All-Star shortstop Corey Seager.

The Dodgers chased Lester with two outs in the fifth, but reliever Carl Edwards Jr. came through after several recent postseason struggles, striking out pinch-hitter Chase Utley and then pitching a strong sixth.

Lester was the co-MVP of last season's NLCS, winning Game 5 at Dodger Stadium and yielding two runs over 13 innings in the series. He had nothing near the same success against the Dodgers' revamped lineup in this one, issuing four walks in the first four innings and repeatedly escaping jams.

Dodgers third base coach Chris Woodward held up Turner in the third when it appeared he could have scored from first on Cody Bellinger's double to the gap.

Javier Baez, the other co-MVP of last season's NLCS for Chicago, got to third base in the third with one out but also was stranded.

Up next
Cubs: Hendricks dominated Chicago's playoff opener with seven scoreless innings against the Nationals, but yielded four runs in four innings during the team's wild Game 5 victory in Washington. He is starting on normal rest.

Dodgers: Darvish was outstanding in Game 3 against the Diamondbacks, earning his first career postseason victory with seven strikeouts over five innings of two-hit ball. He was acquired 

MLB Playoffs: Altuve's dash lifts Verlander, Astros over Yanks in Game 2

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MLB Playoffs: Altuve's dash lifts Verlander, Astros over Yanks in Game 2

HOUSTON — Jose Altuve raced home on Carlos Correa's double in the ninth inning, Justin Verlander struck out 13 in a complete game and the Houston Astros beat the New York Yankees 2-1 Saturday for a 2-0 lead in the AL Championship Series.

Correa also homered, but Houston needed a daring dash from Altuve to get Verlander a win. The 5-foot-6 AL MVP front-runner reached with a one-out single against closer Aroldis Chapman , then sprinted around from first base on Correa's shot to right-center field, sliding past catcher Gary Sanchez as he misplayed a short-hop. Altuve had two more hits and is 13 for 23 (.565) this postseason.

Verlander pitched another gem for the Astros, setting a postseason career best for strikeouts and allowing five hits in his second career complete game in the postseason. He threw a season-high 124 pitches and retired baby Bronx Bombers Aaron Judge, Sanchez and Greg Bird in the top of the ninth.

In the bottom of the inning, Judge picked up Correa's hit in right field and threw toward second base. Shortstop Didi Gregorius fielded there, and his throw beat Altuve to the plate by a few steps. But Sanchez bobbled the one-hop as Altuve slid by, and the Astros mobbed Correa in shallow center field. Altuve pointed toward Correa and his teammates from behind the plate (see full recap).

Puig, Taylor power Dodgers past Cubs in NLCS Game 1
LOS ANGELES -- Chris Taylor hit a tiebreaking homer in the sixth inning, Yasiel Puig added a homer and an RBI double to his dynamite postseason, and the Los Angeles Dodgers overcame a short start by Clayton Kershaw for a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Saturday night in the NL Championship Series opener.

Charlie Culberson doubled, drove in the tying run and scored another while replacing injured All-Star shortstop Corey Seager for the resourceful Dodgers, who improved to 4-0 in this postseason.

With another collective offensive effort and four innings of perfect relief pitching, Los Angeles calmly overcame an early two-run deficit and took the first game of this rematch of the 2016 NLCS, won in six games by Chicago on the way to its first World Series championship in 108 years.

Game 2 is Sunday, with Rich Hill starting at home against Chicago's Jon Lester (see full recap).