Phillies-White Sox 5 things: Wrapping up interleague play

Phillies-White Sox 5 things: Wrapping up interleague play

Phillies (68-83) vs. White Sox (72-79)
7:05 p.m. on CSN

The Phillies will go for a two-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox tonight in their final interleague game off the season. The Phils fended off a ninth-inning rally from Chicago last night to take Game 1, 7-6.

Runs will be harder to come by tonight, as Chicago sends out its ace, but it certainly helps some of the Phillies' top bats have been hot at the plate recently. 

Let's take a look.

1. Young bats staying hot
Last night, the Phillies manufactured seven runs off 12 hits. All seven runs and seven of the 12 hits were produced by the two through four spots in the lineup: Roman Quinn, Odubel Herrera and Tommy Joseph. Quinn was 2 for 4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Quinn has reached based safely in seven of his nine starts.

Herrera has continued to finish the season the same way he started. Last night, he was 3 for 4 at the dish, driving in three runs and hitting his 15th long ball of the season. 

After hitting a wall out of the All-Star break, where his on-base percentage dipped from .378 to .353, Herrera has heated up in the final stretch of the season. In September, he has a batting line of .339/.403/.571 with eight extra base hits.

Herrera's hot hitting has carried over to the player hitting behind him recently in Joseph, who was 2 for 3 with an RBI double last night. The rookie first baseman has struggled getting on base this season (.310 on base percentage) and is coming off a down month of August. 

But Joseph has rebounded for his strongest month at the plate since July, hitting .333/.408/.619 in September.

These three young payers continuing to carry out their hot streaks through game No. 162 would help provide a promising end to a rebuilding season for the Phillies.

2. Eickhoff looking to rebound
Jerad Eickhoff turned in one of the odder stat lines you'll see from a pitcher in his most recent outing.

The 26-year-old right hander allowed five hits and walked none over six-plus innings of work against the Pirates, but four of those hits wound up over the outfield wall at Citizens Bank Park. Pittsburgh hit four solo home runs off Eickhoff, chasing him for six runs before the Pirates unloaded for nine more off the Phillies' bullpen in the final two innings of a 15-2 rout.

Before Eickhoff tossed one of his worst starts of the season, the second-year starter had actually strung together four strong starts in a row, going 2-1 with a 2.63 ERA over 24 innings.

One of those starts came against the White Sox in Chicago on Aug. 24. In six innings, Eickhoff surrendered two runs on four hits, striking out two and walking none in the Phillies' 5-3 win.

The Phillies are going to need that kind of performance from Eickhoff tonight, because the pitcher they're matched up against is one of the best the game has to offer. 

3. First look at Chris Sale
Another year, another Cy Young caliber performance from Chris Sale. 

Sale, 27, is 16-8 with a 3.03 ERA across 29 starts this season and will take the hill tonight looking to tie his career high in wins. His six complete games lead all of Major League Baseball and he's currently riding a streak of six consecutive starts where he's gone at least eight innings, boasting a 2.16 ERA over that span.

The left-handed power arm features four pitches, a four-seam and two seam fastball, changeup and slider. Sale is most known for his nasty slider, which he throws 25 percent of the time and holds hitters to a .173 average. His strikeout percentage has dipped from his previous two seasons, but Sale has struck out over 200 batters (215) for the fourth consecutive year. 

Sale has been overpowering MLB hitters since he entered the big leagues as a reliever in 2010, but tonight will be the first look most Phillies will get at him.

The only players in a Phillies uniform to face Sale are Jimmy Paredas (0 for 6), Peter Bourjos (2 for 6) and A.J. Ellis (1 for 3). 

4. Changes coming in the 9th inning?
Last night, Jeanmar Gomez came on to pitch the ninth inning with the Phillies holding a comfortable 7-3 lead. While it wasn't it save situation when Gomez initially took the mound, it quickly turned into one. In two-thirds of an inning, Gomez allowed three runs on three hits and a walk.

With the tying run on second and the go-ahead run at the plate, Gomez was relieved of his duties in favor of Michael Mariot, who retired the first batter to secure the win.

Following a strong first half, which saw him post a 2.59 ERA and lock down 24 of 26 save opportunities, Gomez's execution has dropped off since the break. In 25-plus innings of work, he has an ERA of 6.39 and three blown saves.

While Gomez has trended downward, Hector Neris has gone on the upswing. In over 29 innings since the break, Neris has posted a 1.82 ERA with a .91 WHIP.

Unless he's dealt in the offseason, Gomez figures to be a part of the Phillies' backend of the bullpen in 2017, but it would hard to see him simply being handed the closer job entering spring training, especially with the development of Neris.

5. This and that
• Eickhoff has split his 30 starts evenly between home and the road this season, but has fared better at home (95 innings, 3.40 ERA, 1.175 WHIP) than he has away from Citizens Bank Ballpark (85 innings, 4.13 ERA, 1.224 WHIP). 

• Herrera has posted a .388 on-base percentage on 43 at-bats at the No. 3 position in the Phillies' lineup.

• Gomez's 37 saves are the ninth most single season total in franchise history. Jose Mesa holds the club record with 45 saves, set in 2002.

MLB Notes: Nationals fire Dusty Baker


MLB Notes: Nationals fire Dusty Baker

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."

MLB Playoffs: Dodgers crush Cubs to reach 1st World Series in 29 years

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MLB Playoffs: Dodgers crush Cubs to reach 1st World Series in 29 years


CHICAGO -- Enrique Hernandez put a Hollywood ending on an L.A. story three decades in the making.

Fueled by a home run trilogy from their emotional utilityman, Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers are finally going to the World Series.

Hernandez homered three times and drove in a record seven runs, Kershaw breezed through six crisp innings and Los Angeles ended the Chicago Cubs' title defense with an 11-1 rout in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series on Thursday night.

"It feels good to hear World Series," Kershaw said. "It's been a long time coming for this team."

After years of playoff heartache, there was just no stopping these Dodgers after they led the majors with 104 wins during the regular season. With Kershaw firing away at the top of a deep pitching staff and co-NLCS MVPs Justin Turner and Chris Taylor leading a tough lineup, one of baseball's most storied franchises captured its first pennant since Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda managed Kirk Gibson, Orel Hershiser and Co. to Los Angeles' last championship in 1988.

"Every night it is a different guy," Turner said, "and this is one of the most unbelievable teams I've ever been a part of."

Kershaw will be on the mound again when the Dodgers host the New York Yankees or Houston Astros in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night. The Yankees have a 3-2 lead heading into Game 6 of the ALCS at Houston on Friday night, so one more New York win would set up another chapter in an old October rivalry between the Yankees and Dodgers.

Los Angeles made the playoffs eight times in the previous 13 seasons and came up short of its 22nd pennant each time, often with Kershaw shouldering much of the blame. The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner took the loss when his team was eliminated by the Cubs in Game 6 of last year's NLCS at Wrigley Field.

The ace left-hander was just OK during his first two starts in this year's postseason, but Los Angeles' offense picked him up each time. Backed by Hernandez's powerful show in Chicago, Kershaw turned in an efficient three-hit performance with five strikeouts and improved to 6-7 in the playoffs -- matching Burt Hooton's club record for postseason wins.

"To get to be on the mound tonight and get to be going to the World Series on the same night, it's a special thing," Kershaw said. "Who knows how many times I'm going to get to go to the World Series? I know more than anybody how hard it is to get there. So, I'm definitely not taking this one for granted."

When Kenley Jansen retired Willson Contreras on a liner to shortstop for the final out, the party was on . The Dodgers poured out of the dugout and mobbed their dominant closer near the mound, and a small but vocal group of Los Angeles fans gathered behind the visitors' dugout and chanted "Let's go Dodgers! Let's go Dodgers!"

On the field, manager Dave Roberts hugged Lasorda and told the iconic skipper the win was for him.

"I bleed Dodger blue just like you," Roberts said. "Thank you, Tommy."

Hernandez connected on the first two pitches he saw, belting a solo drive in the second for his first career playoff homer and then a grand slam in the third against Hector Rondon. Hernandez added a two-run shot in the ninth against Mike Montgomery.

The 26-year-old Hernandez became the fourth player with a three-homer game in a league championship series, joining Bob Robertson (1971 NLCS), George Brett (1978 ALCS) and Adam Kennedy (2002 ALCS). Hernandez's seven RBIs tied a postseason record shared by four other players who all did it in a Division Series.

Troy O'Leary was the previous player to have seven RBIs in a playoff game, for Boston at Cleveland in the 1999 ALDS.

It was a stunning display for a player with 28 career homers who remains concerned about his native Puerto Rico, which is recovering from a devastating hurricane. He delivered a historic performance in front of his father, Enrique Hernandez Sr., who was diagnosed with a blood cancer related to leukemia in December 2015, but got word last November that he was in remission.

"For me to be able to come here and do something like this is pretty special," said Hernandez, who also goes by Kik?. "My body's here, but my mind's kind of back home. It's hard being away from home with what's going on.

"All I want to do right now is go to my dad and give him a big hug."

Kris Bryant homered for Chicago, but the NL Central champions finished with just four hits in another tough night at the plate. Each of their eight runs in the NLCS came via the long ball, and they batted just .156 for the series with 53 strikeouts.

Long playoff runs in each of the last two years and a grueling five-game Division Series against Washington seemed to sap Chicago of some energy, and its pitching faltered against sweet-swinging Los Angeles. Jose Quintana was pulled in the third inning of the final game, and the Cubs never recovered.

"They executed their plan," Bryant said. "They pitched great and the bullpen was lights out. That makes for a tough time scoring runs."

Turner and Taylor helped put it away for Los Angeles, contributing to a 16-hit outburst while closing out a pair of impressive performances.

Turner singled home Taylor in the Dodgers' five-run third, giving him seven RBIs in the series and 24 throughout his postseason career. Taylor finished with two hits and scored two runs as the Dodgers, who have won five straight NL West titles, improved to 7-1 in this postseason.

Taylor's versatility helped Los Angeles cover for the loss of All-Star shortstop Corey Seager, who missed the series with a back injury, but is expected to return in the next round. Coming off a breakout season, the 27-year-old Taylor hit .316 with two homers and scored five times against the Cubs.

"I couldn't be happier to be a part of this and be with these guys," Taylor said. "It's been an unbelievable year, and I'm just super excited."

Out with a bang
Hernandez joined Kennedy (2002), Adrian Beltre (2011), Reggie Jackson (1977 vs. the Dodgers) and Babe Ruth (1928) as players to hit three home runs in a postseason series clincher.

Lights out
Dodgers relievers have thrown 23 consecutive scoreless innings, a postseason record.