Clayton Kershaw

Even with Jake Arrieta, Phillies still have enormous flexibility

Even with Jake Arrieta, Phillies still have enormous flexibility

Here's the thing about that vaunted 2018-19 MLB free-agent class you've been hearing about for years: There's no elite pitcher who would have been realistically available for the Phillies to sign.

Clayton Kershaw is a safe bet to opt out of the final two years of his deal, but given the Phillies' disinterest in signing a pitcher to a long-, long-term deal — along with their interest in Manny Machado — Kershaw was never realistic here.

Which is why the Phillies had to add starting pitching help this offseason when seemingly everything played to their favor. It was why, when Jake Arrieta continued to linger in free agency in early March, the Phillies had to step up and get the deal done.

Next year's payroll
Arrieta's contract, according to Jon Heyman, pays $30 million in Year 1, $25 million in Year 2, $20 million in Year 3. It makes sense to frontload the contract because the Phillies have so few dollars committed in 2019.

Even after signing Arrieta for $25 million per year, Carlos Santana for $20 million per year and throwing a combined $35 million to Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter over the next two seasons, the Phillies still have less than $70 million in guaranteed commitments for next year's team.

Now, that doesn't include the raises for keepers like Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Hector Neris, Aaron Altherr, Nick Williams, Luis Garcia, etc. 

Perhaps not every player from that group is still a Phillie 12 months now, but their relative cheapness is what prompted a team that wasn't totally sure what it was going to do this offseason to sign one of the two best starting pitchers on the market. 

Aside from that veteran free-agent quartet, pretty much every Phillies player who matters is making less than $7 million per season. And then you have the super-cheap guys like Rhys Hoskins, J.P. Crawford and Williams, who all have under a year of service time.

It's kind of similar to what the Eagles are doing with Carson Wentz: Filling out the team around him while Wentz is still on his inexpensive rookie deal.

What Arrieta accomplishes
Aside from what Arrieta is able to contribute on the field this season, his presence on the Phillies will make someone like Machado take the Phils more seriously next winter. If nothing goes catastrophically wrong injury-wise this season, free agents will look at the Phils as a young team with some key vets that could be on the brink of taking the next step toward 90 or so wins.

And the beauty of the ways the Phillies have methodically rebuilt to this point is that even after making two free-agent splashes, they could still sign someone like Machado next offseason, and perhaps even sign another high-priced free agent, and they'd still be about $30 million under their 2014 payroll. (That was their last-gasp, A.J. Burnett-Marlon Byrd offseason.)

As Arrieta stayed unsigned, this move just made more and more sense for the Phillies every day. Had Arrieta, at the same age, been a free agent last year or the year before, he'd have gotten that five-year-plus deal. It was only two offseasons ago that Jordan Zimmermann, for example, got $110 million.

The Phils waited, waited, waited, and got a more team-friendly deal than the one Arrieta's old team, the Cubs, signed Yu Darvish to. They may have gotten the better pitcher as well.

World Series: Dodgers sizzle in steamy L.A. for Game 1 win over Astros

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World Series: Dodgers sizzle in steamy L.A. for Game 1 win over Astros


LOS ANGELES -- No sweat, Clayton Kershaw.

Changing jerseys to beat the 103-degree heat, the Dodgers ace with a checkered playoff history delivered a signature performance, pitching Los Angeles past the Houston Astros 3-1 Tuesday night in the World Series opener.

Boosted by Justin Turner's tiebreaking, two-run homer in the sixth inning off Dallas Keuchel, Kershaw was in complete control against the highest-scoring team in the majors this season.

"Definitely feels good to say it was the World Series, and it feels good to say we're 1-0," Kershaw said.

The left-hander had waited his whole career for this moment. And once he took the mound in his Series debut, he lived up every bit to the legacy of Sandy Koufax, Orel Hershiser and the greatest of Dodgers hurlers.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner struck out 11 , gave up just three hits and walked none over seven innings, featuring a sharp breaking ball that often left Houston batters taking awkward swings. His lone blemish was a home run by Alex Bregman in the fourth that made it 1-all.

No matter, with Koufax in the house, Kershaw did his pal proud.

"He was as good as advertised," Keuchel said.

A sweltering, pulsating crowd at Dodger Stadium dotted with Hollywood A-listers was filled with Kershaw jerseys, and he drew loud cheers all evening.

Kershaw got one more ovation when he walked through a corridor to a postgame interview. There, fans applauded a final time.

"I felt good. It's a tough lineup over there," Kershaw said. "The way Keuchel was throwing it was up and down a lot, which was good. It got us into a rhythm a little bit. I think for me personally, it helped out a lot."

Brandon Morrow worked a perfect eighth and Kenley Jansen breezed through the Astros in the ninth for a save in a combined three-hitter. The Dodgers' dominant relievers have tossed 25 straight scoreless innings this postseason.

With both aces throwing well, the opener zipped by in 2 hours, 28 minutes -- fastest in the World Series since Game 4 in 1992 between Toronto and Atlanta. Jimmy Key and the Blue Jays won that one 2-1 in 2:21.

It certainly was unusual for this postseason, when nine-inning games had been averaging 3 hours, 32 minutes -- up 18 minutes from two years ago.

Chris Taylor gave the Dodgers an immediate jolt in their first Series game since 1988 when he hit a no-doubt home run on Keuchel's very first pitch. Taylor was co-MVP of the NL Championship Series with Turner, and they both kept swinging away against the Astros.

"Just getting that momentum early is huge," Kershaw said. "And let the crowd kind of feed off that. It was definitely as good a start as we could have hoped for."

The loss left the Astros still without a single World Series win in their 56-season history. In their only other Series appearance, they were swept by the White Sox in 2005.

Game 2 is Wednesday evening, with AL Championship Series MVP Justin Verlander starting against Dodgers lefty Rich Hill.

Kershaw has almost every imaginable individual accolade on his resume -- five ERA titles, an MVP trophy, a no-hitter and seven All-Star selections -- but also was dogged by a shaky October past.

He began this outing in the twilight with a 6-7 career playoff record and an unsightly 4.40 ERA. He improved to 3-0 in four starts this postseason.

"I don't know if you can decipher between a postseason start and a World Series start. The adrenaline, I feel like every game is so much more magnified," Kershaw said.

A Series opener that served as a showcase for several of the game's best young hitters -- Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Cody Bellinger and more -- instead was dominated by Kershaw.

"Couldn't be happier for him," Turner said.

Facing a team that had the fewest strikeouts in the majors this year, Kershaw fanned more Houston hitters than any starter this season. And he helped the Dodgers, who led the majors with 104 wins and a $240 million payroll, improve to 8-1 this postseason.

"Tonight is about Kershaw," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.

It was 1-all when Taylor drew a two-out walk in the sixth. Turner followed with his drive off the bearded Keuchel .

"Keuchel was really good tonight. He was just a pitch or two less than Kershaw," Hinch said.

While it was sticky, the conditions didn't seem to affect either side.

Kershaw, as always, wore his bright blue Dodgers jacket walking to the bullpen to get ready.

"It was hot warming up. But once the game started, the sun went down, it didn't feel that hot," Kershaw said.

There is no reliable record for the hottest temperature at a World Series game. But weather data indicates this might've been the steamiest ever.

Notorious for late arrivals, Dodger fans showed up early and the seats in the shaded sections filled up fast. Keeping with the theme, the stadium organist played 1960s hits "Heat Wave" and "Summer in the City" as Houston warmed up.

When Vin Scully's familiar recorded call of "It's Time for Dodger Baseball" boomed over the PA system, the crowd really let loose, with the entire ballpark standing and chanting for the pregame introductions.

Scully drew a huge ovation when he was later shown on the video board, sitting in a box. Several players clapped along for the Hall of Fame broadcaster, who's nearly 90 and spent 67 seasons calling Dodgers games.

Dustin Hoffman, Jerry Seinfeld and Lady Gaga were among the many celebs in the crowd of 54,253, along with Dodgers great Tom Lasorda and part-owner Magic Johnson.

MLB Playoffs: Dodgers crush Cubs to reach 1st World Series in 29 years

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MLB Playoffs: Dodgers crush Cubs to reach 1st World Series in 29 years


CHICAGO -- Enrique Hernandez put a Hollywood ending on an L.A. story three decades in the making.

Fueled by a home run trilogy from their emotional utilityman, Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers are finally going to the World Series.

Hernandez homered three times and drove in a record seven runs, Kershaw breezed through six crisp innings and Los Angeles ended the Chicago Cubs' title defense with an 11-1 rout in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series on Thursday night.

"It feels good to hear World Series," Kershaw said. "It's been a long time coming for this team."

After years of playoff heartache, there was just no stopping these Dodgers after they led the majors with 104 wins during the regular season. With Kershaw firing away at the top of a deep pitching staff and co-NLCS MVPs Justin Turner and Chris Taylor leading a tough lineup, one of baseball's most storied franchises captured its first pennant since Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda managed Kirk Gibson, Orel Hershiser and Co. to Los Angeles' last championship in 1988.

"Every night it is a different guy," Turner said, "and this is one of the most unbelievable teams I've ever been a part of."

Kershaw will be on the mound again when the Dodgers host the New York Yankees or Houston Astros in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night. The Yankees have a 3-2 lead heading into Game 6 of the ALCS at Houston on Friday night, so one more New York win would set up another chapter in an old October rivalry between the Yankees and Dodgers.

Los Angeles made the playoffs eight times in the previous 13 seasons and came up short of its 22nd pennant each time, often with Kershaw shouldering much of the blame. The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner took the loss when his team was eliminated by the Cubs in Game 6 of last year's NLCS at Wrigley Field.

The ace left-hander was just OK during his first two starts in this year's postseason, but Los Angeles' offense picked him up each time. Backed by Hernandez's powerful show in Chicago, Kershaw turned in an efficient three-hit performance with five strikeouts and improved to 6-7 in the playoffs -- matching Burt Hooton's club record for postseason wins.

"To get to be on the mound tonight and get to be going to the World Series on the same night, it's a special thing," Kershaw said. "Who knows how many times I'm going to get to go to the World Series? I know more than anybody how hard it is to get there. So, I'm definitely not taking this one for granted."

When Kenley Jansen retired Willson Contreras on a liner to shortstop for the final out, the party was on . The Dodgers poured out of the dugout and mobbed their dominant closer near the mound, and a small but vocal group of Los Angeles fans gathered behind the visitors' dugout and chanted "Let's go Dodgers! Let's go Dodgers!"

On the field, manager Dave Roberts hugged Lasorda and told the iconic skipper the win was for him.

"I bleed Dodger blue just like you," Roberts said. "Thank you, Tommy."

Hernandez connected on the first two pitches he saw, belting a solo drive in the second for his first career playoff homer and then a grand slam in the third against Hector Rondon. Hernandez added a two-run shot in the ninth against Mike Montgomery.

The 26-year-old Hernandez became the fourth player with a three-homer game in a league championship series, joining Bob Robertson (1971 NLCS), George Brett (1978 ALCS) and Adam Kennedy (2002 ALCS). Hernandez's seven RBIs tied a postseason record shared by four other players who all did it in a Division Series.

Troy O'Leary was the previous player to have seven RBIs in a playoff game, for Boston at Cleveland in the 1999 ALDS.

It was a stunning display for a player with 28 career homers who remains concerned about his native Puerto Rico, which is recovering from a devastating hurricane. He delivered a historic performance in front of his father, Enrique Hernandez Sr., who was diagnosed with a blood cancer related to leukemia in December 2015, but got word last November that he was in remission.

"For me to be able to come here and do something like this is pretty special," said Hernandez, who also goes by Kik?. "My body's here, but my mind's kind of back home. It's hard being away from home with what's going on.

"All I want to do right now is go to my dad and give him a big hug."

Kris Bryant homered for Chicago, but the NL Central champions finished with just four hits in another tough night at the plate. Each of their eight runs in the NLCS came via the long ball, and they batted just .156 for the series with 53 strikeouts.

Long playoff runs in each of the last two years and a grueling five-game Division Series against Washington seemed to sap Chicago of some energy, and its pitching faltered against sweet-swinging Los Angeles. Jose Quintana was pulled in the third inning of the final game, and the Cubs never recovered.

"They executed their plan," Bryant said. "They pitched great and the bullpen was lights out. That makes for a tough time scoring runs."

Turner and Taylor helped put it away for Los Angeles, contributing to a 16-hit outburst while closing out a pair of impressive performances.

Turner singled home Taylor in the Dodgers' five-run third, giving him seven RBIs in the series and 24 throughout his postseason career. Taylor finished with two hits and scored two runs as the Dodgers, who have won five straight NL West titles, improved to 7-1 in this postseason.

Taylor's versatility helped Los Angeles cover for the loss of All-Star shortstop Corey Seager, who missed the series with a back injury, but is expected to return in the next round. Coming off a breakout season, the 27-year-old Taylor hit .316 with two homers and scored five times against the Cubs.

"I couldn't be happier to be a part of this and be with these guys," Taylor said. "It's been an unbelievable year, and I'm just super excited."

Out with a bang
Hernandez joined Kennedy (2002), Adrian Beltre (2011), Reggie Jackson (1977 vs. the Dodgers) and Babe Ruth (1928) as players to hit three home runs in a postseason series clincher.

Lights out
Dodgers relievers have thrown 23 consecutive scoreless innings, a postseason record.