Phillies

Pitching coach Dubee remains confident in Halladay

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Pitching coach Dubee remains confident in Halladay

ATLANTA -- Roy Halladay made all his starts in the second half of last season. He worked diligently conditioning his body to pitch this offseason. He began throwing bullpen sessions in January and had a full spring training.

Despite all this, Halladay continues to have trouble commanding his pitches. That was evident when he needed 95 of them to get just 10 outs in a 9-2 loss to Atlanta on Wednesday night. Sure, Halladay’s nine strikeouts were an encouraging testament to his ability to still get swings and misses, but that positive was trumped by the troubling reality that he lasted just 3 1/3 innings.

That will kill the Phillies’ bullpen if it doesn’t kill Halladay first.

“I’d rather get beat 20-0 and pitch eight innings than pitch 3 1/3,” he said. “That’s got to change.”

With all the work he’s done, one has to wonder what’s taking Halladay so long to put it all together again?

“Bad habits,” pitching coach Rich Dubee said Thursday afternoon. “Bad habits that he acquired when he was hurt.”

Halladay struggled with shoulder and back issues last season. That caused him to lower his arm angle. Dubee said Halladay’s arm angle is higher now, but the pitcher is struggling to iron out his delivery.

“This was a guy who did something as consistently as you could possibly do it for years,” Dubee said. “He developed bad habits to get the ball to the plate last year, trying to work through some health issues. I’m a big believer that the more you do something wrong, the more it becomes ingrained. If you do it wrong, and you do it wrong, and you do it wrong, it takes time to get that feeling out of your body and get the right feeling back in it.”

Halladay, who has pitched over 3,300 professional innings, has a high-mileage shoulder. Dubee has acknowledged that the 35-year-old pitcher doesn’t have the bullets he used to, but he still believes Halladay can succeed. To have success, Halladay must be able to put the ball in good spots -- keep it out of a hitter’s feast zone -- and that starts with a sound delivery.

Will Halladay, with all his wear and tear, be able to regain that delivery?

“Absolutely,” Dubee said. “Over the last three outings I’ve been encouraged each time out. I think he’s building and he continues to build.”

Dubee’s support of Halladay is not surprising. It’s his job. Elsewhere, observers of Halladay’s work are skeptical. Dubee knows that. Halladay knows that. Halladay’s results were not good last year. They were not good in spring training. They were not good Wednesday night -- even in a nine-strikeout effort.

When do the Phillies have to start seeing some results from Halladay?

“I think I am starting to see some results,” Dubee said. “You think I’m going to take the ball away from this guy? You’re talking about a two-time Cy Young Award winner. What do you think, we’re going to put him in the bullpen?

“I’m seeing results. I’m seeing nine strikeouts out of 10 outs last night. Do you see many other guys doing that in baseball? Yu Darvish against the Astros. Yu Darvish wasn’t facing the Atlanta Braves.”

Dubee has been patient with Halladay and will continue to be.

“I’ve always said when you judge players, you go off their track records,” Dubee said. “And who has a longer, better track record than this guy? And not only track record as far as being a quality pitcher, but as far as being a quality person with credentials that are out of this world.”

Halladay’s situation is a major issue not just in Philadelphia, but around all of baseball. The whispers that he is in serious decline, that the end could be near, are now shouts.

Even through his laser-like focus, Halladay hears them.

Dubee, too.

“I don’t think what’s out there is taxing to him,” Dubee said. “I think what’s taxing to him is this guy has tremendous pride and wants to be part of a winner. And he is. He’s probably the most accountable guy I’ve ever been around. And he feels very, very accountable that he has to go out there and pitch well for us to win. And that could be taxing at times, sure. I think it was taxing with Cliff [Lee] last year when he didn’t win for how long. Those things start to wear on you. But this is an accountable guy. I think the more he goes out there and relaxes and is tension-free the better he’ll be. He’s going to continue to get [support] from me.”

Astros reach World Series, shut out Yankees in ALCS Game 7

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Astros reach World Series, shut out Yankees in ALCS Game 7

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HOUSTON -- Jose Altuve embraced Justin Verlander as confetti rained down. An improbable thought just a few years ago, the Houston Astros are headed to the World Series.

Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers combined on a three-hitter, Altuve and Evan Gattis homered and the Astros reached the World Series for only the second time by blanking the New York Yankees 4-0 Saturday night in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Next up for the Astros: Game 1 against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Los Angeles opened as a narrow favorite, but Verlander, the ALCS MVP, and fellow Houston ace Dallas Keuchel will have plenty of rest before the World Series begins at sweltering Dodger Stadium.

"I love our personality," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We have the right amount of fun, the right amount of seriousness, the right amount of perspective when we need it. This is a very, very unique group. To win 100 games and still be hungry is pretty remarkable."

The Astros will try for their first World Series title, thanks in large part to Altuve, the diminutive second baseman who swings a potent bat, and Verlander, who switched teams for the first time in his career to chase a ring.

Four years removed from their third straight 100-loss season in 2013, the Astros shut down the Yankees on consecutive nights after dropping three in a row in the Bronx.

The only previous time the Astros made it this far, they were a National League team when they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in 2005.

Hinch's club has a chance to win that elusive first crown, while trying to boost a region still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

"This city, they deserve this," McCullers said.

Clutch defensive plays by third baseman Alex Bregman and center fielder George Springer helped Houston improve to 6-0 at Minute Maid Park in these playoffs and become the fifth team in major league history to capture a seven-game postseason series by winning all four of its home games.

Morton bounced back from a loss in Game 3 to allow two hits over five scoreless innings. Starter-turned-postseason reliever McCullers limited the Yankees to just one hit while fanning six over the next four. A noted curveballer, McCullers finished up with 24 straight breaking pitches to earn his first major league save.

Combined, they throttled the wild-card Yankees one last time in Houston. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and their New York teammates totaled just three runs in the four road games.

"I know people are going to talk about how we didn't win many games on the road. There were some other teams that haven't won many games on the road, either. We just happened to run into a very good team that just beat us," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

The Astros also eliminated New York in the 2015 postseason, with Keuchel winning the AL wild-card game at Yankee Stadium.

CC Sabathia entered 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts this season after a Yankees loss. But he struggled with command and was gone with one out in the fourth inning.

Houston was up 2-0 in fifth when former Yankees star Brian McCann came through for the second straight game by hitting a two-run double. He snapped an 0-for-20 skid with an ground-rule RBI double to give Houston its first run on Friday night in a 7-1 win.

The Yankees, trying to reach the World Series for the first time since 2009, lost an elimination game for the first time this season after winning their first four in these playoffs. New York went 1-6 on the road this postseason.

After going 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position through the first three innings, the Astros got on the board with no outs in the fourth with the 405-foot shot by Gattis.

Altuve launched a ball off Tommy Kahnle into the seats in right field with one out in the fifth for his fifth homer this postseason. It took a while for him to see that it was going to get out, and held onto his bat until he was halfway to first base before flipping it and trotting around the bases as chants of "MVP" rained down on him.

Altuve finished 8 for 25 with two homers and four RBIs in the ALCS after hitting .533 with three homers and four RBIs in the ALDS against Boston.

Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel hit consecutive singles before Kahnle struck out Gattis. McCann's two-strike double, which rolled into the corner of right field, cleared the bases to push the lead to 4-0. Gurriel slid to avoid the tag and remained on his belly in a swimming pose at the plate for a few seconds after he was called safe.

It was just the second Game 7 in franchise history for the Astros, who lost to the Cardinals in the 2004 NLCS exactly 13 years earlier.

Sabathia allowed five hits and one run while walking three in 3 1/3 innings. He wasn't nearly as sharp as he was in a Game 3 win and just 36 of the 65 pitches he threw were strikes.

Morton got into trouble in the fifth, and the Yankees had runners at the corners with one out. Bregman fielded a grounder hit by Todd Frazier and made a perfect throw home to allow McCann to tag Greg Bird and preserve Houston's lead. McCann held onto the ball despite Bird's cleat banging into his forearm. Chase Headley grounded out after that to end the inning.

A night after Springer kept Frazier from extra-bases with a leaping catch, Judge returned the favor on a ball hit by Yuli Gurriel. Judge sprinted, jumped and reached into the stands to grab his long fly ball before crashing into the wall and falling to the ground for the first out of the second inning.

Springer had another nifty catch in this one, jumping in front of Marwin Gonzalez at the wall in left-center to grab a ball hit by Bird for the first out of the seventh.

With McCullers in charge, the Astros soon closed it out.

"It's not easy to get here. And I don't take any of this for granted. And this is what we play for," Verlander said. "These are the experiences that you remember at the end of your career when you look back, winning these games, just playing the World Series. Hopefully winning the World Series."

MLB Playoffs: Verlander, Astros beat Yankees to force Game 7 in ALCS

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MLB Playoffs: Verlander, Astros beat Yankees to force Game 7 in ALCS

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HOUSTON — Justin Verlander remained perfect with Houston, pitching seven shutout innings when the team needed him most, and Jose Altuve homered and drove in three runs as the Astros extended the AL Championship Series to a decisive Game 7 with a 7-1 win over the New York Yankees on Friday night.

Acquired in an Aug. 31 trade, Verlander has won all nine outings with the Astros. And with his new club facing elimination in Game 6 against the Yankees, he delivered again.

After striking out 13 in a complete-game victory in Game 2, Verlander threw another gem. The right-hander scattered five hits and struck out eight to improve to 9-0 with 67 strikeouts since being traded from Detroit. George Springer helped him out of a jam in the seventh, leaping to make a catch at the center-field wall and rob Todd Frazier of extra bases with two on and Houston up 3-0.

Game 7 is Saturday night in Houston, with the winner advancing to the World Series against the NL champion Los Angeles Dodgers.