Phillies

Best of MLB: Aaron Judge gets 44th home run as Yankees beat Twins

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Best of MLB: Aaron Judge gets 44th home run as Yankees beat Twins

NEW YORK -- Aaron Judge hit his 44th home run, Aroldis Chapman pitched out of big trouble in the eighth inning and the New York Yankees edged the Minnesota Twins 2-1 on Monday night to increase their AL wild-card lead.

Todd Frazier hit a tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the sixth, and Jaime Garcia gave the Yankees a splendid performance against the team that traded him this year after only one start. New York, still chasing first-place Boston in the AL East, won the opener of a three-game series that could serve as a potential postseason preview two weeks from now.

The Yankees have built a five-game cushion for the league's top wild card with 12 to play. Minnesota is in the second spot, 1 1/2 games ahead of the idle Los Angeles Angels. So if the standings hold, New York will host the Twins in the one-game playoff on Oct. 3. (see full recap).

Olson, Lowrie lead Oakland past in Detroit
DETROIT -- Matt Olson homered, Jed Lowrie drove in three runs and the Oakland Athletics beat the Detroit Tigers 8-3 on Monday night.

Olson became the first A's player to homer in four straight games since Coco Crisp in 2013, and now has 14 home runs in his last 20 games.

Tigers reliever Jeff Ferrell left the game in the eighth inning after getting hit in the head with a line drive off the bat off Ryon Healy. The hit was measured at 102.6 mph by StatCast and hit Ferrell in the right side of the head.

He never went down, but jogged immediately toward the Detroit dugout and was escorted to the clubhouse.

Nicholas Castellanos had three hits for the Tigers, extending his career-best hitting streak to 15 games (see full recap).

Stanton hits 55th homer to help Marlins beat Mets
MIAMI -- Giancarlo Stanton hit his 55th homer -- and his first in nine days -- while driving in four runs to help the Miami Marlins beat the New York Mets 13-1 Monday night.

Batting third for the first time this year, Stanton hit a three-run line drive into the home run sculpture at Marlins Park in the fourth inning against Matt Harvey (5-6). With that, the MLB home run leader ended a drought of 29 at-bats without one.

Stanton's homer total is the highest since Ryan Howard hit 58 in 2006. Stanton added a run-scoring single in Miami's seven-run fifth.

The Marlins, back home after a trip extended by three games due to Hurricane Irma, won for only the fourth time in the past 21 games.

Marcell Ozuna had four hits, including his 34th home run. Dee Gordon also had four hits, among them a two-run triple. Ichiro Suzuki added two hits and an RBI, while rookie Brian Anderson drove in two runs with his first career triple.

Stanton came into the game batting .147 in his previous 19 games. He has been rested and held out of the starting lineup three times in the past 10 games, including Sunday (see full recap).

Suter, Braun help Brewers beat Bucs to gain in playoff race
PITTSBURGH -- Brent Suter pitched five efficient innings, Ryan Braun homered and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-0 on Monday night to gain ground in the NL playoff chase.

Milwaukee pulled within 3 1/2 games of the Cubs in the NL Central and two games behind the Rockies for the final NL wild card. Chicago and Colorado were both off Monday.

Suter (3-2) allowed five hits and struck out four, throwing just 64 pitches before handing off to the bullpen. Five relievers split the final four innings, with Corey Knebel pitching the ninth for his 36th save in 41 tries.

Braun's solo shot, his 17th of the season, came in the fourth inning off starter Jameson Taillon (7-7). In the sixth inning, former Pirates infielder Neil Walker added on with an RBI single that ended Taillon's night.

Taillon had his last turn in the rotation skipped after a poor start Sept. 7 and rebounded by giving up two runs and six hits in five innings. Taillon walked one and struck out four.

Travis Shaw hit an RBI single to score Walker in the eighth. It was Shaw's team-leading 96th RBI this year. Braun, Shaw and Walker each had two hits (see full recap).

Forget Machado (for now), Phils reportedly eyeing HOF third baseman

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Forget Machado (for now), Phils reportedly eyeing HOF third baseman

Forget Manny Machado (for now). The Phillies are reportedly also interested in an older third baseman who can still hit but would come much cheaper.

That would be Rangers 3B and future Hall-of-Famer Adrian Beltre, according to MLB's Jon Paul Morosi

"The Phillies also have interest in Beltre, sources say, as much for his professionalism as his production," Morosi wrote. "The Phils have the youngest group of position players in the Majors, and team officials see long-term value in Beltre's influence on an emerging core."

Beltre turned 39 in April and has been on the DL four times in the last two seasons, including twice this season with hamstring strains. Still, he's remained one of the better all-around third basemen in the majors, hitting .304 with an .877 OPS the last three seasons. He'd be an unquestioned upgrade at third over Maikel Franco, who has talked over the years about how much he admires Beltre's game.

Beltre is in the final year of his contract and is owed $18 million. The deal includes a full no-trade clause and Beltre would need to waive it to potentially join the Phils. The Phillies are a fringe contender but the Rangers are already out of it at 32-44 and 18 games back in the AL West.

This week, Phillies GM Matt Klentak said he is not opposed to trading for a rental player so long as the Phillies hang around the playoff picture in the next month. Royals 3B Mike Moustakas is another player to monitor in that regard.

Of course, this doesn't mean the Phillies are out on Machado but trading for him midseason would be much more complicated and there's little chance he'd re-sign before first testing the free-agent market.

If the Phillies do trade for him, they just have to make sure everyone in the clubhouse knows the rules about touching his head.

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Time for Phillies to worry more about Braves than Nationals

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Time for Phillies to worry more about Braves than Nationals

All season, the expectation has been that the Nationals would eventually overtake the Braves for the NL East lead. Yet here we are 45 percent of the way in and the Braves are still picking up clutch hits, getting outs in the eighth and ninth innings and maintaining a 3½-game division lead. They've been eight or more games over .500 every day since May 12.

The Braves have outscored their opponents by 73 runs — 28 more than the Nationals and 65 more than the Phillies.

As for the Phils, it's a longshot but not infeasible to still be in contention three months from now. They'd first need to continue to hold their own during this rough portion of the schedule and then take advantage of the 12-game run to the All-Star break vs. the Marlins, Mets, Orioles and Pirates (lost 20 of 30).

The most realistic playoff path for the Phillies is the second wild card, but both the Braves and Nats will be worth focusing on because they'll be in both races. And the Braves, because of how they've played in the first half and when they play the Phillies in the second, are a more dangerous team than anticipated.

Clutch hitting

The Braves have been remarkably clutch all season. They've hit an NL-best .286 with runners in scoring position with an .880 OPS that is 38 points higher than any team in baseball.

"Clutch" is not regarded as a projectable skill or trait from year to year, but we've seen plenty of teams stay hot in key situations for an entire season. In the last five years, there have been six teams that performed just as good or better with RISP than the 2018 Braves over a full season.

The Nationals' offense has been average. It should get better as recently-activated Daniel Murphy and Adam Eaton get some games under their belts, but with Bryce Harper not having nearly the season he had a year ago and 2017 surprise Ryan Zimmerman spending most of this season on the DL, it's just not the same team. 

Harper is still walking and hitting for power, but he's batting .209 a year after batting .319 and his OPS has dropped by 198 points.

Crooked numbers

Ready for a stat that sticks out as the difference between the Phils and Braves?

The Phillies this season have scored three runs or more in an inning 35 times. That represents about 5 percent of their innings.

The Braves have scored three runs or more in an inning 74 times, which represents 12 percent of their innings.

The Phils have had trouble all year stringing hits together and capitalizing on big opportunities. They stranded the bases loaded with one out twice in the Cardinals series, once with Rhys Hoskins and Odubel Herrera, once with Scott Kingery and Nick Williams. The first missed opportunity prevented the Phils from breaking open a two-run lead in a game they wound up losing, the second kept the game tied.

Starting pitching

The Nationals have the best starting pitcher in baseball in Max Scherzer, but with Stephen Strasburg injured they no longer have a big rotation advantage on the rest of the division. Strasburg was placed on the DL on June 10 with right shoulder inflammation and hasn't yet resumed throwing.

The best active 1-2 punch in the division is either Scherzer and Gio Gonzalez or Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta.

The Braves' rotation, though, has been surprisingly good this season, mostly because of Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb. 

Foltynewicz also hit the DL last week but could return as soon as Sunday. A hard thrower whose command has now matched his stuff, Foltynewicz has a 2.16 ERA with 94 strikeouts in 79 innings and has been the breakout pitcher in the National League in 2018.

The lefty Newcomb, a 2014 first-round pick acquired in the Andrelton Simmons trade, is 8-2 with a 2.70 ERA and .204 opponents' batting average.

On pace ...

The over/under win totals set in Vegas before the season had the Braves at 74.5 wins, the Phillies at 75.5 and the Nationals at 92.5.

As of Thursday, the Braves are on pace to finish 95-67. 

The Phillies and Nationals are each on pace to go 89-73.

Since MLB instituted the two-wild-card format, no NL team has made the playoffs with fewer than 87 wins.

The season series

The Phillies face the Nationals in D.C. this weekend and will miss Scherzer, Strasburg and Gonzalez. That's huge, especially with another four-game series the following weekend.

The Phillies have faced the Nationals just three times all season so 16 games remain. After the two upcoming series, the Phils draw the Nationals for two series in August and one in September.

As for the Braves, the Phillies won't get a chance to improve upon their 5-7 head-to-head record until the end of September. The teams meet for a four-game series Sept. 20-23 in Atlanta and then again the final series of the season Sept. 28-30 at Citizens Bank Park. Seven of the final 11 games are the Phillies vs. Braves.

Something that makes you go hmmm ...

Over the last 30 days, the Phillies have hit .225/.305/.375 and have a 4.68 ERA.

The Mets over that span have hit .221/.301/.375 with a 4.42 ERA.

Yet the Phillies went 12-15 and the Mets were 5½ games worse at 7-21.

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