Phillies

World Series: Astros ride late HRs to 11-inning win over Dodgers

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World Series: Astros ride late HRs to 11-inning win over Dodgers

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LOS ANGELES -- George Springer screamed with joy as he circled the bases after hitting a two-run homer in the 11th inning.

Would it be enough? Was this the final plot twist on one of the wildest nights in postseason history?

Yes, it was -- barely -- and the Houston Astros won a World Series game for the first time in their 56 seasons.

Charlie Culberson hit a two-out homer in the bottom half off winner Chris Devenski, who then struck out Yasiel Puig in a tense, nine-pitch at-bat. The Astros outlasted the Los Angeles Dodgers 7-6 in a Hollywood thriller Wednesday night to tie the Series at one game apiece.

"This is an instant classic and to be part of it is pretty special," Astros starter Justin Verlander said.

On a night of dramatic swings and a World Series-record eight home runs, Marwin Gonzalez stunned the Dodger Stadium crowd with a solo shot off dominant Los Angeles closer Kenley Jansen on an 0-2 pitch in the ninth that made it 3-all.

Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa hit consecutive home runs against Josh Fields in the 10th to build a 5-3 Astros lead, with Correa making a big bat flip to celebrate.

But there was more. Much, much more.

"That's the craziest game that I've ever played in, and it's only Game 2," Springer said

Puig homered off Ken Giles starting the bottom of the 10th and Enrique Hernandez knotted the score 5-5 with a two-out RBI single.

Devenski entered and with Hernandez at second, a wild pickoff throw headed toward center field before it struck second base umpire Laz Diaz. An incredulous Hernandez put both hands on his head, unable to advance, and was stranded when Chris Taylor flied out.

Cameron Maybin, who had entered in the 10th, singled leading off the 11th against losing pitcher Brandon McCarthy, a surprise addition to the Dodgers' World Series roster who was pitching for the first time since Oct. 1. Maybin stole second and Springer hit a drive to right-center for a 7-5 lead, just the third 11th-inning home run in the Series after shots by Kirby Puckett in 1991 and David Freese in 2011.

Springer, an All-Star leadoff hitter, was 0 for 4 with four strikeouts in the Series opener Tuesday.

Devenski retired Corey Seager and Justin Turner on lineouts in the bottom half. Puig checked his swing on a 2-2 pitch -- the Astros jumped when first base umpire Gerry Davis signaled no swing -- and Puig fouled off two more. Devenski threw his fifth straight changeup, and Puig swung over it as the Astros ran onto the field to celebrate after finally closing out a back-and-forth game that lasted 4 hours, 19 minutes.

"Oh my gosh, it was crazy. A lot of emotions, a lot of feelings," Correa said. "The ball flies at this ballpark."

After another steamy night in a Santa Ana heat wave, the series shifts to Texas and resumes Friday at Houston's Minute Maid Park, where the retractable roof has not been open for a game since June 8. Lance McCullers Jr. starts for the Astros and Yu Darvish for the Dodgers, who acquired him from Texas at the July 31 trade deadline.

Houston is 6-0 at home in the postseason, where the Astros have outscored the Red Sox and Yankees by a combined 31-7, but just 2-5 on the road.

Before Gonzalez's home run, the Dodgers had an 85 percent chance of winning, according to Fangraphs. After Correa's long ball, the Astros were a 93 percent favorite.

"Up, down, up, down, up," Springer said, describing his emotions over the last few innings. "That's a heck of a game right there."

Verlander, wearing an undershirt, entered the dugout in the 11th inning to scream at his teammates that the game was not over.

Alex Bregman's RBI single in the third gave Houston its first lead of the Series, a hit that might have turned into a three-run, inside-the-park homer had not the ball bounced off the bill of Taylor's hat in center and deflected right to Joc Pederson in left.

Los Angeles had just two hits through seven innings but led 3-1 behind Pederson's fifth-inning solo homer and Seager's two-run drive in the sixth against Verlander. It was Pederson's first home run since July 26.

Jansen entered with a 3-1 lead for his first six-out save in a year after Bregman doubled leading off the eighth against Brandon Morrow, a ball that ticked off the glove of a diving Puig in the right-field corner.

Correa's RBI single off Jansen ended a record 28-inning postseason scoreless streak by the Dodgers' bullpen.

Gonzalez was an unlikely candidate for a tying homer. He had not driven in a run in his 45 plate appearances since Houston's postseason opener.

As the slanting sun illuminated the green hills of Elysian Park behind center field and the ochre-tinted San Gabriel Mountains beyond, retired Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully took the mound for the ceremonial first pitch. The 89-year-old, who left the booth in 2016 after his 67th season, charmed the crowd when he began "somewhere up in heaven, Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and Gil Hodges are laughing their heads off" at his presence on the mound. He feigned an arm injury and turned the ritual over to Fernando Valenzuela, who helped the Dodgers win their 1981 title.

The game-time temperature was 93 degrees -- down 10 degrees from the opener. Celebrities in the sellout crowd of 54,293 included golfers Tiger Woods and Fred Couples, and former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning.

Houston improved to 10-0 in nine starts and one relief appearance by Verlander, the 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner obtained in a trade from Detroit at the Aug. 31 deadline to be eligible for the Astros' postseason roster.

Sure sounds like Kapler has decided on Phils' No. 1 catcher

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Sure sounds like Kapler has decided on Phils' No. 1 catcher

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CLEARWATER, Fla. – Phillies manager Gabe Kapler has shied away from making definitive pronouncements early in camp, but it sure sounded as if he anointed Jorge Alfaro as his No. 1 catcher on Saturday.

Alfaro had two hits, including a grand slam on a 3-0 pitch, and drew a walk in the Phillies' 9-6 win over Baltimore.

After the game, Kapler raved about the 23-year-old rookie’s work at the plate and behind it.

“Alfaro was incredible today and it wasn’t just the grand slam,” Kapler said. “In his previous at-bat, he worked an eight-pitch walk and wore down the opposition’s starting pitcher.

“His receiving has already gotten a ton better. He's really focusing his attention on being prepared for every pitch. You don't just see it out in the game. You see it in his bullpen sessions so his practice sessions have been vastly improved. We're going to keep working with him. He's got a ways to go, but so does everybody. I don't think we need to single him out for being unprepared. He's absolutely prepared to be our catcher in Philadelphia.”

Conventional wisdom had already suggested that Alfaro was in line to be team’s starting catcher. He is out of minor-league options and team officials have long indicated that they are ready to see what he can do with an extended look in the majors. Still, it was interesting to hear Kapler essentially affirm the plan.

Alfaro’s grand slam came against Dylan Bundy and highlighted a five-run second inning. Kapler felt confident giving Alfaro the green light on 3-0.

“We just believe in our guys, plain and simple," Kepler said. "But most importantly, we play for the big innings. Big innings are critical to winning baseball games. So we never want to remove our chance to have a big inning. Probably the best way to have a big inning is to have an extra-base hit in a situation like that. We have a ton of confidence in Alfaro and his decision making. I'm really glad he picked out a pitch he liked and jumped on it.”

Starting pitcher Zach Eflin displayed power stuff, a fastball up to 96 mph. More than a year removed from double knee surgery, he has regained leg strength and it shows in the pop on his fastball. A year ago, the 6-6 right-hander was 200 pounds. Now, he’s 220 with hopes of adding more strength.

“I feel amazing,” he said. “My legs have never felt better in my life. I’m able to put more pressure on my legs to where I don’t even feel my arm when I throw.”

Eflin, who turns 24 in April, is a candidate for a job at the back end of the rotation.

Aaron Nola, likely to be the Phillies’ opening day starter, makes his spring debut Sunday against the Yankees in Clearwater.

Phillies infielder taken to hospital after on-field collision

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Phillies infielder taken to hospital after on-field collision

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Third baseman Will Middlebrooks was transported to a nearby hospital after suffering what appeared to be a serious injury to his left ankle when he was involved in a collision in left field during Saturday afternoon’s Phillies-Baltimore Orioles game.

Middlebrooks, 29, in camp with the Phillies on a minor-league contract, collided with left fielder Andrew Pullin as the two converged on a soft fly ball by Baltimore’s DJ Stewart in the eighth inning.

There was no immediate word on Middlebrooks’ condition.

“I've seen it on video at this point,” manager Gabe Kapler said moments after the game, a 9-6 Phillies’ win. “He's on the way to the hospital to get X-rays. It was a pretty emotional moment, no question about it. He was disappointed to come out of the game after sort of busting his balls for the first five or six days and being in really, really good condition and being excited about camp. We'll see how this goes.” 

Middlebrooks’ left leg bent awkwardly as he and Pullin went to the ground trying to make a catch. Middlebrooks was tended to on the field by the Phillies’ athletic training staff. Emergency technicians on site were quickly summoned. A splint was placed on Middlebrooks’ lower left leg and he was taken off the field on a Clearwater Fire and Rescue motorized cart.

Pullin was shaken as he talked about the collision.

“It was kind of one of those balls that’s in between,” he said. “I was running hard and I didn’t hear him call it and I didn’t call it because I wasn’t sure if I could get to it. At the last minute, I slid for it. I’m not sure if he called it.

“I slid and I think I went right into his ankle. Hopefully it’s not too bad.”

Pullin confirmed that Middlebrooks was in significant pain as he lay on the ground.

“He wasn’t doing too good,” Pullin said.

Middlebrooks is a former top prospect of the Boston Red Sox. He played from 2012 to 2014 in the majors with that club and has appeared in the majors with San Diego, Milwaukee and Texas the last three seasons.

The Phillies signed Middlebrooks in the offseason to provide some corner infield depth. He was considered a long shot to make the big-league club and figured to play at Triple A Lehigh Valley. The Phillies will deal with those specifics later. As the work day ended Saturday, only Middlebrooks’ health mattered.

“More than anything, you put yourself in his position,” Kapler said. “A ton of hard work leads up to that moment, giving everything he has on that play, which is what we ask our players to do. The promise we make to fans in Philadelphia is that we're going to play like that. We're going to sacrifice our bodies for that kind of moment in a spring training game. That's exactly what he did. It's really tough. I felt for Will in that moment. We're all pulling really hard for him.”