Phillies

MLB Playoffs: Harper, Zimmerman HRs lift Nats past Cubs to even NLDS

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MLB Playoffs: Harper, Zimmerman HRs lift Nats past Cubs to even NLDS

WASHINGTON — Things were looking bleak for the Washington Nationals and their dormant offense until Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman took over.

Harper hit a tying two-run homer in the eighth inning and Zimmerman tacked on a three-run shot moments later to lift the Washington Nationals to a 6-3 comeback victory over the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs on Saturday, evening their NL Division Series at a game apiece.

The Nationals were in serious danger of falling behind 2-0 in the series, entering the eighth trailing 3-1 after losing 3-0 in Game 1. But after accumulating four hits through the first 16 innings of the postseason, NL East champion Washington broke out with five runs and four hits, led by 2015 NL MVP Harper and longtime face of the franchise Zimmerman.

"I was kind of bewildered, because it's not too many teams or pitchers that have held us in check like that for a couple days," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "I just knew in the bottom of my heart that we were going to explode for some numbers, which we've done all year."

The NLDS moves to Wrigley Field for Game 3 on Monday. The Cubs will have Jose Quintana on the mound and the Nationals counter with two-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, who was pushed back in the rotation because of an injured right hamstring (see full recap).  

Puig powers Dodgers to 8-5 win over D-backs, 2-0 series lead
LOS ANGELES —Yasiel Puig had three hits and drove in two runs, Austin Barnes added a key two-run double and the Los Angeles Dodgers used another relentless offensive performance to beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 8-5 on Saturday night for a 2-0 lead in their NL Division Series.

Logan Forsythe had three hits and Kenley Jansen earned a flawless five-out save for the 104-win Dodgers, who have made their mediocre pitching irrelevant by pounding out 17 runs and 24 hits in the first two games against their NL West rival.

Paul Goldschmidt hit a two-run homer in the first inning and Brandon Drury added a pinch-hit, three-run shot in the seventh, but the Diamondbacks are on the brink of elimination after Robbie Ray and reliever Jimmie Sherfy couldn't contain the Dodgers' lineup.

Game 3 is Monday at Chase Field.

Phillies to upgrade bullpen with impending return of Pat Neshek

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Phillies to upgrade bullpen with impending return of Pat Neshek

ORLANDO, Fla. -- On the day he was traded from the Phillies to the Colorado Rockies in July, Pat Neshek stood in front of his locker and talked about how much he liked his time in Philadelphia. He gazed into his crystal ball and envisioned himself returning to the Phillies as a free agent over the winter.

The image in Neshek's crystal ball is about to come to life. The Phillies are on the verge of re-signing the 37-year-old right-hander, multiple sources said on Monday, the first day of baseball's winter meetings. When the deal is wrapped up in the next few days, it will be worth $16.25 million for two years with a club option for a third.

"We've been talking with the agents of a bunch of relief pitchers and we're on the goal line with one," said Phillies general manager Matt Klentak, who initially acquired Neshek in a trade with Houston 14 months ago then watched the pitcher deliver four outstanding months that landed him on the National League All-Star team.

There is not a no-trade clause in Neshek's new deal, so the Phillies could peddle him once again if they are not in contention. The Phillies got three prospects for Neshek in July — infielder Jose Gomez and right-handed pitchers J.D. Hammer and Alejandro Requena. Hammer was recently named to the Arizona Fall League's All-Prospect team.

Neshek pitched in 43 games (40 1/3 innings) for the Phillies in 2017 and gave up just five runs while walking five and striking out 45. In Colorado, Neshek continued to shine. He finished the season with a 1.59 ERA in 71 games. Overall, he pitched 62 1/3 innings and gave up just 11 earned runs while walking six and striking out 69.

Neshek is expected to help set up for Hector Neris and complement Luis Garcia, Adam Morgan, Edubray Ramos and Hoby Milner, all relatively young relievers who showed breakthrough signs in 2017. The Phillies could continue to add to their bullpen before the winter is complete. Sources say they have shown interest in free-agent lefty Jake McGee.

"I think we’re open-minded to bringing in multiple bullpen reinforcements," Klentak said. "One of the goals leading into next season is to improve our run prevention. Obviously, there are a lot of ways we can do that. One way — and this is sort of the simple narrative — is to address our starting pitching. We will continue to explore ways to improve our starting pitching, but I also think we need to be prepared to improve our run prevention in other areas. Improving our bullpen is one way to do that.

"I think if we can run out a bullpen of seven or eight guys that are all high-leverage type arms, then we can start matching up in the fifth or sixth inning. If there are days when our young starters throw 100 pitches to get us through five or six innings, we shouldn't be in a position where that’s taxing our bullpen because we have the ability to carry an eighth bullpen member next year. We shouldn’t be in a position where we lose our competitiveness in the sixth inning because we should have a deep bullpen where we start throwing really good players out there early in the game. If it turns out that’s the best way for us to improve our run prevention, then that’s the way to do."

The Phillies will continue to look for starting pitching at these winter meetings and beyond. They are open to trading Freddy Galvis or Cesar Hernandez and would look to get starting pitching in a deal for one of them. The Angels, according to sources, covet Hernandez as both a second baseman and leadoff man, but the Phillies' asking price is high.

Also on Day 1 of the winter meetings ...

The Phillies lost outfielder Cameron Perkins and infielder Engelb Vielma on waivers to Seattle and Pittsburgh, respectively. With two openings on the 40-man roster, the Phils can add a player in Thursday's Rule 5 draft. They have the third overall pick.

"I would expect that we would take advantage of the third pick in some form or fashion," Klentak said. "Whether we draft a player and retain that player or draft a player and make a trade, I’ll think we’ll look to do something with it. That was a big part of why we put the two guys on waivers that we did. It was just to free us up to be able to participate on Thursday."

Phillies shouldn't trade top prospects for Manny Machado

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Phillies shouldn't trade top prospects for Manny Machado

The Phillies have been connected to Manny Machado for a while and will continue to be with the Orioles superstar entering the final year of his contract.

As Jim Salisbury pointed out Sunday, the Phillies have the depth to try to swing a deal for Machado at some point over the next year. 

Could it happen sooner rather than later?

Orioles beat writer Roch Kubatko of MASN reported Monday that the Orioles "covet" Phillies top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez and also like Scott Kingery.

The Phillies are very high on both prospects. Sanchez is a potential future ace, and Kingery is a potential opening day infielder for the Phillies in 2018. It would seem highly unlikely the Phils would trade one or both for Machado, even if they knew Machado would re-sign here. Why not just wait it out and try to sign Machado next winter when you wouldn't have to give up Sanchez or Kingery?

It would make a lot of sense for Baltimore to trade Machado over the next eight months. The O's have next to no chance of re-signing him so getting something in return is the way to go. As Kubatko points out, if Machado is traded, his new team would have a 72-hour window to sign him to an extension.

Another name mentioned in the report is Freddy Galvis, who is also a free agent after 2018. Obviously, Galvis is not netting you Machado, but it's a more reasonable starting point for a player who is effectively on a one-year deal.

Could a package involving two of Galvis, Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez entice the O's? It's not an equivalent to Machado from a talent standpoint, but a player with theoretical upside like Franco might move the needle a bit, especially if Baltimore would also be adding a few other consistent pieces.

The Phillies have a lot of young depth, both in the minors and at the major-league level — players who could be appealing to another team but who probably wouldn't be sorely missed here. One of Andrew Knapp or Cameron Rupp would be expendable. So too, obviously, would be a couple middle infielders. Tom Eshelman has had impressive minor-league results, but will he succeed at the major-league level? Roman Quinn has enough upside to attract other clubs, but enough injury questions to get the Phillies thinking. Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Tommy Joseph ... all of these players could be used as sweeteners in the right trade.

The news will be fast and furious coming out of the winter meetings this week in Orlando, always one of the most exciting times on the baseball calendar.