Phillies

MLB Playoffs: Astros beat Red Sox, advance to ALCS

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MLB Playoffs: Astros beat Red Sox, advance to ALCS

BOSTON -- Justin Verlander outpitched Chris Sale in a relief role reversal of aces, and the Houston Astros advanced to their first AL Championship Series, rallying past the Boston Red Sox 5-4 Monday in Game 4 of their playoff matchup.

Houston will open the ALCS on Friday, either at Cleveland or at home against the New York Yankees. The Indians held a 2-1 edge over the Yankees going into Game 4 of the AL Division Series on Monday night.

With Verlander and Sale -- the Game 1 starters -- both pressed into relief, the Astros prevailed to win the ALDS 3-1.

Alex Bregman homered off Sale to tie it in the eighth and Josh Reddick hit an RBI single off closer Craig Kimbrel later in the inning.

The Astros last reached the league championship series in 2005 as a National League team, and were swept in the World Series by the White Sox.

Carlos Beltran added to his legacy of postseason success with an RBI double in the Houston ninth for a 5-3 lead. Red Sox rookie Rafael Devers opened the bottom of the ninth with an inside-the-park homer off Ken Giles, the ball hitting above center fielder George Springer's leap and bouncing off the angled Green Monster.

Giles retired the next three batters for a six-out save (see full recap).

Bellinger, Dodgers sweep Diamondbacks to reach NLCS
PHOENIX -- Cody Bellinger homered, drove in two runs and flipped over a dugout railing to steal an out for a dominant Yu Darvish, helping the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-1 Monday night to finish a three-game sweep in their NL Division Series.

Darvish, acquired from Texas in a trade deadline deal, struck out seven over five innings to outpitch Arizona's Zack Greinke and earn the big Japanese right-hander his first postseason victory in three tries.

Four Los Angeles relievers combined to preserve a three-hitter. Kenley Jansen worked around a single by David Peralta for a three-out save, striking out Paul Goldschmidt to end it. Only four batters reached base all night for the Diamondbacks, including Daniel Descalso's homer.

The Dodgers, who won 104 games for the best record in baseball and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, face the winner of the Nationals-Cubs series for the NL championship. Los Angeles lost to Chicago in last year's NLCS.

Bellinger hit his homer in the fifth, then made a daring catch to end the bottom of the inning. The rookie first baseman fell into the Dodgers dugout as he snagged Jeff Mathis' popup, nearly dropping into the lap of manager Dave Roberts (see full recap).

Severino, Yankees beat Indians to force deciding Game 5
NEW YORK -- Luis Severino bounced back from his playoff debacle, slumping Aaron Judge delivered a big hit and the New York Yankees took advantage of shoddy defense by Cleveland to beat the Indians 7-3 Monday night and push their AL Division Series to a decisive Game 5.

Gary Sanchez homered and Judge laced an early two-run double for his only hit of the series to go with 12 strikeouts in 15 at-bats.

Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer struggled on three days' rest and was chased in the second inning. But it was on the wet Yankee Stadium field where the Indians really flopped, committing a season-high four errors that marked a franchise record for a postseason game and led to six unearned runs. The defending AL champions made only 76 errors all season, the lowest total in the league.

After preventing a three-game sweep with a 1-0 win Sunday night, the wild-card Yankees will start CC Sabathia in Game 5 at Cleveland on Wednesday. Indians ace Corey Kluber gets the ball in a rematch from Game 2, when he was hit hard by New York (see full recap).

Cubs rally past Scherzer, Nationals for series lead
CHICAGO -- Anthony Rizzo hit a tiebreaking single with two outs in the eighth inning and the Chicago Cubs overcame Max Scherzer's brilliant performance to beat the Washington Nationals 2-1 on Monday for a 2-1 lead in their NL Division Series.

Scherzer was dominant in his return from a right hamstring injury, carrying a no-hitter into the seventh. But just like in Game 1, when Chicago was held hitless into the sixth by Stephen Strasburg, the World Series champion Cubs showed off their resilience on the way to a stirring victory.

Game 4 of the best-of-five series is Tuesday. Jake Arrieta returns from his own hamstring injury for the Cubs, while Tanner Roark gets the ball for the Nationals.

Albert Almora Jr. had a pinch-hit RBI single in the seventh for Chicago, and Jose Quintana tossed 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball in his postseason debut (see full recap).

Tim Tebow's chances of actually playing in majors

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Tim Tebow's chances of actually playing in majors

Could "Tim Tebow in the major leagues" actually be a thing in 2018?

The mere suggestion that Tebow could one day rise to baseball's highest level sounded crazy in the summer of 2016 when he signed with the Mets.

One former Phillie referred to it as a "slap in the face."

Longtime baseball man Larry Bowa said this in August 2016:

"Whosever idea it is, they don't respect the game of baseball. It's a hard game. You don't come in at age 28 or 29. I'm not saying he's not a good athlete, but this is a hard game and there are a lot of good athletes in pro ball that never get to the big leagues. 

"I don't think it can happen. There are guys 28 or 29 that are getting released everyday. How can you take 10 years off and all of the sudden be facing guys throwing 95, guys throwing sliders?"

Yet here we are in spring training 2018 and Mets GM Sandy Alderson has said he expects to see Tebow play in The Show.

"Somebody asked me whether I think he'll be a major league player at some point," Alderson told reporters Sunday. "I think he will play in the major leagues. That's my guess. That's my hope, and to some extent now after a year and a half, a modest expectation."

Bovada has set Tebow's odds of playing in the majors in the 2018 or 2019 regular season at 6/1. If you bet against him, it's 1/10, meaning a $100 bet would win you $10.

Tebow played at two levels in 2017: Class A and Class A Advanced. He hit .226/.309/.347 with 24 doubles, eight homers and 52 RBIs in 486 plate appearances. He walked 43 times and struck out 126.

Nearly all of Tebow's minor-league innings have come in left field, where he had 10 errors and two outfield assists in 2017.

Tebow last appeared in the NFL in the 2015 preseason with the Eagles. He went 21 for 36 for 286 yards with two TDs and an interception, adding 82 yards on 14 carries with a TD on the ground but failing to make Chip Kelly's 53-man roster.

Bombs away! Nick Williams takes aim on manager's car in batting practice

Bombs away! Nick Williams takes aim on manager's car in batting practice

CLEARWATER, Fla. — A week into camp, Nick Williams looks primed to build on last year’s impressive rookie season.

Williams has been launching balls in batting practice and manager Gabe Kapler loves it — even if it means he’ll be charged for a little damage to his rental car.

On Tuesday, Williams clubbed a ball far over the fence at Mike Schmidt Field. It landed on the roof of Kapler’s rented Ford Explorer, leaving a dent that would hold a couple of servings of creamed spinach.

“I would trade a Nick Williams home run for a dent in a rental car any day of the week,” Kapler said Tuesday.

“I’m glad he said that,” Williams said Wednesday morning, “because it felt kind of good to hit it.”

Later on Wednesday, Williams put on another power display at Schmidt Field. It was so impressive that Cesar Hernandez considered leaving the field, grabbing his keys and moving his car.

“I just missed Cesar’s car,” Williams said with a laugh.

Kapler was again impressed with Williams’ round of BP.

“Today we had a nice little breeze coming in from right field,” Kapler said. “The breeze did not stop Nick Williams from destroying the baseball and almost hitting my car for a second day straight.

“If he is destroying cars and it happens to be mine, no problem.”

Kapler has no intention of parking elsewhere in coming days. In fact, he likes the idea of Williams using his car for target practice.

“We’re going to make it a bull’s-eye for him,” Kapler said. “That’ll be a running joke. It’s a great way to build relationships. It’s part of the whole scientific plan to make this work.”

Williams, 24, arrived in the majors in June of last season. He played in 83 games and hit .288 with 12 homers, 55 RBIs and an .811 OPS. Like a number of players on the roster, he would benefit from fewer strikeouts and more walks (97/20 in 343 plate appearances last season), but a week into camp, Kapler likes the hitting potential he sees in the young outfielder.

“He’s really shining,” Kapler said. “He really is. He walks around with a perpetual smile on his face.

“Our hitting coaches are enthused about the bat path. The way he sort of lofts the ball to the middle of the field. Some hitters, when they strike their best ball, it’s on the ground. But Nick, when he makes his most solid contract, it has a nice loft to his swing. And in the middle of the field, there aren’t many guys who can drive the ball like he can.”

The Phillies have four outfielders worthy of regular playing time. Rhys Hoskins and Odubel Herrera line up to play left field and center field, respectively. Williams will get time in right. Aaron Altherr can play any outfield position.

Kapler is reluctant to assign roles at this point in camp. But he is confident he can find all four playing time.

“I’m not concerned about that,” he said. “Between pinch-hitting, interleague, someone getting a tweak and missing a week, the occasional rep at first base [for Hoskins], they’re all going to get a ton of reps. I envision plenty of at-bats to keep everybody satisfied, healthy and performing well.”