Phillies-Nationals thoughts: Aaron Nola tries to get back on track for good


Phillies-Nationals thoughts: Aaron Nola tries to get back on track for good

Phillies (53-86) at Nationals (85-54)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on and the NBC Sports App

In an attempt to capture their second straight series victory, the Phillies began to rally against the Mets on Wednesday after facing a 6-0 deficit.

The Phils cut that lead in half in the top of the sixth inning, but the game was called in the bottom frame after a 57-minute rain delay. 

After dropping two of three to the Mets, the Phillies will go from facing one of the worst teams in baseball to the class of their division in the Nationals. 

•With seven games remaining between the two clubs, the Nationals hold a 7-5 advantage over the Phils in the season series. The last time the Phillies came out on top of the season series with the Nats was in 2014 when they went 11-8. Since, the Phils have gone 17-33 against Washington.

•Aaron Nola has hit a bit of a rough patch in what has otherwise been a strong season for the right-hander. After a string of 10 consecutive starts where Nola allowed no more than two earned runs, he was tagged for five and seven runs, respectively, in two straight mid-August starts. He appeared to snap out of that funk in his start against the Braves on Aug. 28, when he allowed one run on five hits over seven innings. 

But Nola was roughed up yet again in his last start, allowing six runs on 10 hits in a loss to the Marlins. Nola will look to get back on track for good against a team he had success against earlier this season. In his only start against Washington, back on April 14, he held a daunting Nationals lineup to just one run over five innings.

•That daunting Nationals lineup has been without Bryce Harper, who is hitting to the fine tune of .326/.419/.614 in 2017, since Aug. 12, when the superstar outfielder went down with a knee injury. It's unclear when Harper will return, but a very strong pitching staff and a deep lineup have kept the Nats afloat in Harper's absence. They're 16-9 since and trail the reeling Dodgers (who have lost nine of 10) by seven games for the top spot in the National League.

•Giancarlo Stanton and Paul Goldschmidt have gotten most of the of buzz for NL MVP, but Anthony Rendon deserves to at least be in the conversation. Rendon is hitting .303/.403/.539 with 23 home runs and 91 RBIs on one of the best teams in baseball. Oh yeah, and he's currently leading all of MLB in WAR (6.5), per FanGraphs.

•Three of the top five ERA leaders in all of MLB hail from the Nationals' pitching staff, in Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg. The Phillies are currently scheduled to face just Scherzer from that uber-talented trio in this four-game series, but the Nationals have yet to announce their starter for Sunday's game.

Tanner Roark will take the mound for the Nats on Thursday. After boasting a 2.83 ERA across 33 starts last season, Roark has struggled in 2017. His ERA has risen to 4.48 and his WHIP is over 1.3. The good news for Roark? He's been better than his season averages across three strarts against the Phillies this season, pitching to a 3.06 ERA and 1.019 WHIP.

•On Wednesday, J.P. Crawford started at third base over Maikel Franco for the second straight game since being called up. Pete Mackanin plans on getting Crawford as much playing time as possible down the final stretch of the season and, while Mackanin said Crawford will get time in the middle infield as well, it will be interesting to see just how many more starts Franco gets in the final 23 games. Franco, who is slashing .223/.278/.387, has been substantially worse than Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis this season. 

•Bryce Harper had the best hair in baseball. Notice that last sentence says had and not has. Harper on Wednesday reveled his new look and it was a far cry from his awesome flow. 

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).

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