When Odubel Herrera met Big Papi at dinner in Philly, a hitting lesson broke out

When Odubel Herrera met Big Papi at dinner in Philly, a hitting lesson broke out

ST. LOUIS -- Imagine this for a second.
You're a young baseball player and David Ortiz offers you a private hitting lesson.
In the middle of a busy restaurant.
In Center City Philadelphia.
It happened to Odubel Herrera.
"Fogo de Chao en Filadelfia," Herrera said with a laugh over the weekend in St. Louis.
Herrera and his agents, Victor Tranquillo and Leo Gomez, dined at the Chestnut Street restaurant after the Phillies' opening-day game in April 2015. It happened to be Herrera's first major-league game. The Phillies lost, 8-0, to the Boston Red Sox that day. Hours later, Herrera looked across the restaurant and saw one of his boyhood idols, Red Sox slugger Ortiz, having dinner.
The two gave each other a big wave.
After finishing his dinner, Ortiz walked over to the Herrera table, greeted everyone and started talking hitting with the young Phillies rookie.
"He gave me some tips," Herrera said with the assistance of Diego Ettedgui, the Phillies' Spanish-language translator. "He noticed I had a high leg kick similar to his. We talked about that."
Ortiz warned Herrera that pitchers would try to exploit the leg kick and try to upset his timing at the plate. He offered Herrera advice on how to prevent that from happening.
As Ortiz, Big Papi to his friends, spoke to Herrera he got a little animated and started demonstrating the leg kick — right in the middle of Fogo de Chao in Center City.
What a sight that must have been.
With the Phillies getting set to play Monday and Tuesday nights against Red Sox at Fenway Park, Herrera recalled his encounter with Ortiz two years ago. Ortiz retired (with 541 homers) after last season, his 20th in the majors. Meeting Ortiz that night two years ago was a thrill, Herrera said. It brought him back to his youth in Venezuela and stirred memories of watching the Red Sox and New York Yankees on television, back when their rivalry seemed to dominate the sport.
"When I was little, in my town, all you heard about was Yankees-Red Sox, Yankees-Red Sox, Yankees-Red Sox," Herrera said. "It was a huge rivalry and it was always on TV."
Herrera's dad — Odubel Sr. — was a Red Sox fan because he liked that they were the underdog, at least for a while, in that old rivalry. So little Odubel became a Sox fan, too.
"I liked Johnny Damon, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez," Herrera said.
Herrera gushed with excitement as he recalled watching the history-making 2004 American League Championship Series on television.
"When the Red Sox went down three-nothing and came back to win it, that was huge," he said. "It was unbelievable.
"(Curt) Schilling. Wow! It was crazy to see blood on his sock."
Those days of watching the Red Sox-Yankees postseason epics made such an impact on Herrera that he still vividly recalls the first time he stepped foot in Fenway Park and calls it one of his greatest baseball thrills. It was in September 2015, his rookie season.
"I remember looking around, seeing the field and all the fans," he said. "When my time came and I stepped foot in Fenway Park — that's when it hit me. I was like, 'Wow, I'm a big-leaguer. Now I know that I've made it.' "
Herrera quietly reflected on the moment.
"I'm getting goosebumps right now talking about it," he said. "It's my favorite park."
Herrera will have to check his emotions at the door when he plays in Fenway Park on Monday night.
He says that won't be a problem.
"I've been a fan of the Red Sox …" he said in Spanish.
"No, no, no," he said, catching himself.
He paused, laughed and spoke in English.
"I was a fan of the Red Sox."

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