Phillies prospects Ben Lively, Nick Williams gain experience in loss to Mets

Phillies prospects Ben Lively, Nick Williams gain experience in loss to Mets


NEW YORK -- You want prospects, you got prospects.

The Phillies actually had a couple of them on the field for Friday night's 2-1 loss to the New York Mets at Citi Field (see Instant Replay).

Nick Williams, of course, came up earlier in the day, replacing the injured Howie Kendrick, and the left-handed hitting outfielder stroked a single (he also struck out and lined out to center field) in three at-bats against a pretty good pitcher in Jacob deGrom in his big-league debut.

But Williams, 23, wasn't the only prospect on the field for the Phillies in this one.

Remember, Ben Lively was the Phillies' minor-league pitcher of the year in 2015, and the 25-year-old right-hander, promoted to the majors a month ago, is now taking a regular turn in the team's rotation.

Six starts into his big-league career, Lively has been pretty good. He only has one win to show for his work, but his ERA is a respectable 3.72, and five of his starts have fit the description of quality — six or more innings, three or fewer earned runs.

Lively delivered another Q-start in this game. He held the Mets to two runs over 6 1/3 innings, good enough to win on a lot of nights, but not on a night when your team supports you with just four hits, one of which was a routine fly ball that fell in because centerfielder Curtis Granderson lost it in the twilight.

Just not enough offense. It has been a familiar refrain for these Phillies, who have the worst record in the majors at 26-52.

"Tough to lose that game," manager Pete Mackanin lamented afterward. "Not one of our first five hitters got a hit and we struck out a little too much."

Phillies hitters struck out 13 times. Twelve of those K's came against deGrom, who gave up just one run and has allowed just three earned runs over 32 innings in his last four starts.

"I can see why he's 7-3, that’s for sure," Williams said. "He's got good stuff."

deGrom is now 8-3.

Lively is just 1-3 in his six starts. With just a little more run support, he might have won this one, however.

In the end, the game turned out to be a good learning experience for Lively — as in, the walks will kill you. Lively issued four of them in the first two innings. He largely skirted damage with the help of a pair of double plays, but a two-out walk in the second extended the inning and preceded an RBI hit by Granderson. That was the Mets' first run. The second scored in the fourth when Jose Reyes tripled and Travis d'Arnaud singled. Centerfielder Odubel Herrera had a shot to catch Reyes' drive at the wall but couldn’t make a difficult play.

"It was a tough play," Mackanin said. "That wall comes into play. He had a chance. I've seen him make great catches like that before. But I can't fault him for that. It was close. It was a big play."

The lack of run support really made that two-out walk in the second a killer for Lively.

"I wish I could tell you why," Lively said when asked about the four walks in the first two innings. "I felt like I was delivering the ball fine and it just kept getting away from me. Then [after the second inning] it kind of clicked. I'm glad I figured it out. It could have been worse."

Mackanin praised Lively for his ability to improve mid-start and keep his team in the game. Lively doesn't have power stuff, but he's got a bulldog mentality and lots of deception in his delivery. Mackanin likes that. It will be interesting to see how Lively fares in the second half of the season, if he can pitch his way into a rotation spot for 2018.

Williams struck out in his first at-bat, caught looking at a 2-2 fastball from deGrom on the outside corner.

"He froze me on that first bat at-bat, fastball away. It was paint there, you know," Williams said.

Williams lined out to center on a 2-2 fastball in the fifth and singled to center on a first-pitch sinker in the seventh, both against deGrom.

"I liked my second at-bat better because I laid off some tough pitches," he said.

Williams handled the anxiety of his first big-league start well.

"I think I was more nervous on defense than offense," he said. "At the plate, I felt pretty comfortable. In the field, I was just looking around and thinking, 'Jeez, this place feels huge.'"

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).