Phillies

Phillies-Nationals 5 things: Can Jeremy Hellickson dominate Nats again?

Phillies-Nationals 5 things: Can Jeremy Hellickson dominate Nats again?

Phillies (3-7) vs. Nationals (6-4)
1:05 p.m. on CSN and streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports app

Despite five strong innings from Aaron Nola, the Phillies couldn't nail down a win against the Nationals on Friday evening, losing, 3-2, in extra innings. The Phils send Jeremy Hellickson to the hill Saturday afternoon with hopes to even the series at one apiece while the Nationals toss out Tanner Roark.

Here are five things to know for Game 2 of this series.

1. Can Hellickson tame the Nats again?
In his last time out, Hellickson had the Nationals' number. 

The Phillies' opening day starter took the hill last Sunday and held the Nationals to just one hit through five innings. He was perfect the first time through the order and avoided nearly any hard contact. He would have been able to take the Phils later into the game but dealt with forearm cramping and had to leave the game after warming up for the sixth inning.

It was a disappointing finish for Hellickson's solid start. Holding this Nationals lineup in check is no small feat. Even with starting shortstop Trea Turner on the 10-day disabled list, the team is chalk full of solid lefty hitters with Adam Eaton, Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy all in the top four of the lineup. Hellickson had trouble with the Nationals at times last season (5.09 ERA in 23 innings), so the performance on Sunday was encouraging.

So far on the year, Hellickson has been an ace ... in short bursts. He has a 0.90 ERA but has mustered only five innings in each of his two starts. Run prevention is great, but the Phillies' bullpen could also use a rest with Hellickson working late in the game. It doesn't help that his ERA and his lack of home runs allowed are unsustainable over the long run. However, the focus is one start at a time.

Don't be surprised if the Nationals start Adam Lind at first base against Hellickson again. He is 10 for 34 with three doubles and five walks in his career vs. Hellickson despite going 0 for 2 last time out. Murphy and Jayson Werth have home runs off the righty while catcher Matt Wieters is just 6 for 30, which may be why he didn't start vs. Hellickson last weekend.

2. Tommy Joseph's slow start
While Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera are off to hot starts at the top of the lineup, Tommy Joseph has yet to hit his stride further down in the six hole. This is Joseph's first April in the big leagues as well as his first full year as the Phillies' starting first baseman. With that in mind, it's hard to craft realistic expectations for the 25-year-old.

There are some signs that Joseph could be breaking out of his season-opening slump. After starting 2 for 23 at the dish, he had his first extra-base hit -- a double -- on Wednesday before taking Stephen Strasburg deep for a home run on Friday. We know that Joseph has plenty of power after 21 home runs in just 347 plate appearances last season, so some big swings are hardly out of the ordinary.

Joseph isn't out of the woods though. He's struck out in a third of his plate appearances so far this season and still has an ugly batting line. However, the .143/.194/.286 line he's currently sporting isn't his true talent level. Joseph's slump shouldn't be a long-term thing.

3. Roark vs. the Phillies
In five starts last season, Roark dominated the Phillies. The crafty right-hander was 3-0 with a 0.79 ERA over five starts and 34 innings. He had a quality start every time he faced the Phillies and went seven innings in all but one appearance. Sure, Roark had a career year in many ways last season and the Phillies barely won 70 games, but it's still an impressive performance.

Prior to last season, Roark had much more pedestrian numbers against the Phils, allowing 22 runs in 28 2/3 innings while going just 2-5. It's not necessarily a coincidence that Roark improved against the Phillies while also taking tremendous strides in his overall performance, but the Phillies aren't necessarily dead in the water with the 30-year-old starter on the mound.

In 2017, Roark is off to a solid, yet unspectacular start. He's 2-0 with a 4.09 ERA, getting 20 runs of support over his two starts. His 9/2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 11 innings is solid to begin the year. 

Only one Phillies hitter has a home run off Roark -- Freddy Galvis, who is 4 for 13 with the HR and a HBP vs. the righty. Herrera has the best numbers against him, going 7 for 15 off him. Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco are both 4 for 14 vs. Roark.

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Kendrick is off to a roaring start for the Phillies. While he went just 1 for 4 on Friday, he's still batting .343 with a .410 on-base percentage in the early going.

Nationals: It's gone a bit under the radar with Ryan Zimmerman's resurgence, but Jayson Werth has started his contract season with a bang. He's batting .306 with a .556 slugging percentage and three home runs. Not bad for the former Phillie.

5. This and that
• In five appearances this season, Jeanmar Gomez has allowed seven runs over 5 1/3 innings. While he gave up the winning run Friday, his ERA actually went down from 12.46 to 11.81.

• Nationals new closer Blake Treinen has had a shaky start to 2017 (5.06 ERA in six games). He has a 2.70 ERA in 16 appearances against the Phillies in his four-year career.

• The Phillies' loss in walk-off fashion on Friday was their first extra-inning game this year. They were 7-6 in extras last season.

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).