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Best of MLB: Matthew Boyd falls an out short of no-hitter in Tigers' win over White Sox

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Best of MLB: Matthew Boyd falls an out short of no-hitter in Tigers' win over White Sox

DETROIT -- Matthew Boyd's no-hit bid ended when Tim Anderson doubled with two outs in the ninth inning, and the Detroit left-hander closed out a 12-0 win over the Chicago White Sox on Sunday for the first nine-inning complete game of his professional career.

Boyd (6-10) allowed only two runners -- a walk to Rob Brantly in the third and Anderson's double to the gap in right-center field with two outs in the ninth. He threw a career-high 121 pitches and struck out five.

The 26-year-old had not thrown a complete game in 52 previous major league starts and had never thrown a nine-inning complete game in 121 previous professional starts.

Miami's Edinson Volquez has the only no-hitter in the majors this year, against Arizona on June 3 (see full recap).

Astros clinch AL West with win over Mariners
HOUSTON -- Justin Verlander struck out 10 batters over seven innings in his first home start for Houston while Derek Fisher and Marwin Gonzalez homered in a big fifth inning as the Astros clinched the American League West with a 7-1 win over the Seattle Mariners on Sunday for their first division title since 2001.

George Springer and Carlos Correa also homered for the Astros, who won their first division title since 2001 and seventh overall. The Astros become the first team in Major League Baseball history to win titles in three divisions after previously winning the NL West and NL Central.

Verlander (13-8) retired his first seven batters before Ben Gamel homered into the right-center bullpen in the third. He allowed just two singles after that to improve to 3-0 since he was acquired from Detroit on Aug. 31.

Andrew Moore (1-4) allowed three runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings (see full recap).

Jason Heyward gets big hit as Cubs sweep Cardinals
CHICAGO -- Jason Heyward hit a tiebreaking RBI single with two out in the seventh, and the Chicago Cubs swept the St. Louis Cardinals with a 4-3 victory on Sunday.

Ben Zobrist drove in two runs and Kyle Schwarber hit his 27th homer as the NL Central-leading Cubs closed out a 6-3 homestand with their sixth consecutive victory. They stayed four games ahead of Milwaukee and increased their advantage over third-place St. Louis to six games.

Pedro Strop (5-4) worked a rocky seventh for the win and Wade Davis got three outs for his 31st save in 31 chances. Dexter Fowler flied out to the warning track in center with a runner on first to end the game.

The Cardinals trailed 3-0 before Fowler hit a tying three-run homer off Jose Quintana with two out in the sixth, silencing the crowd of 37,242 on a warm, sunny day at Wrigley Field. The inning began with a double for Matt Carpenter that eluded a lunging Schwarber in left (see full recap).

David Price returns in Red Sox's loss to Rays
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- David Price returned from a nearly two-month layoff by pitching two hitless innings for the Boston Red Sox in a 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday.

The 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner was activated Thursday and pitched for the first time since July 22 after being sidelined by left elbow inflammation. He struck out two in his first relief appearance since 2010.

Jake Odorizzi (9-8) gave up one hit in six innings and the Rays salvaged the finale of a three-game series. Jesus Sucre's solo home run off Eduardo Rodriguez regained the lead for Tampa Bay in the sixth inning after Jackie Bradley Jr. homered for the only hit off Odorizzi.

It was the sixth home run for Sucre and the 17th for Bradley.

Odorizzi took a no-hitter into the sixth, having given up only a first-inning walk to Dustin Pedroia. He had retired 14 straight when he walked Brock Holt to lead off the sixth. Bradley's two-run homer followed on a 3-2 pitch, tying the game 2-2.

Rodriguez (5-6) took the loss for the Red Sox, who opened the day three games in front of the Yankees in the AL East (see full recap).

Rosario's 2 homers, Mauer's slam propel Twins past Blue Jays
MINNEAPOLIS -- Eddie Rosario homered twice, Joe Mauer hit a grand slam and the Minnesota Twins overcame a five-run deficit to beat the Toronto Blue Jays 13-7 Sunday and maintain control for the second AL wild card.

Minnesota trailed 5-0 in the second inning after Josh Donaldson's second homer. Rosario and Byron Buxton hit consecutive homers to start the Twins' rally as Minnesota burst ahead with a seven-run bottom half that included Jorge Polanco's tiebreaking RBI grounder. Minnesota pulled away with six runs in the fifth against reliever Chris Rowley.

Minnesota began the day one game ahead of the Los Angeles Angels for the second wild card and closed within four games of the Yankees heading into a three-game series at New York that starts Monday (see full recap).

Growing up and doing things his way, can Zach Eflin lift Phillies down the stretch?

Growing up and doing things his way, can Zach Eflin lift Phillies down the stretch?

MIAMI — Zach Eflin is growing up. He’s becoming a man, speaking up and advocating for himself.

The results were on display Saturday night.

The 25-year-old right-hander led the Phillies to a 9-3 win over the Miami Marlins by doing it his way.

Featuring mostly sinking, two-seam fastballs — the pitch that got him to the majors and the pitch that he feels most comfortable throwing — Eflin tossed six innings of two-run ball. He scattered six hits, walked none and struck out two.

The performance was Eflin’s best since mid-June. He had a horrendous month of July and was demoted to the bullpen. That demotion led to his taking stock in himself as a pitcher. He concluded that he was throwing too many four-seam fastballs as he tried to satisfy those who wanted the strikeouts and swings and misses that are in vogue in today’s game. Phillies officials preach throwing four-seamers up in the zone as a way to combat hitters looking to launch and the approach does have merit with pitchers who have fastballs in the mid-90s. Eflin, in fact, has had success, at times, with that approach. But after struggling so much in the middle of this season, and having trouble going deep into games, Eflin decided he needed to get back to his comfort zone. He threw 79 pitches Saturday night and 37 of them (a season-high 47 percent) were sinkers. He got 10 outs on the ground.

“I think I can personally be more effective throwing sinkers, getting early outs, and staying in the game longer,” Eflin said after notching his first win in two months. “I think the recipe for getting early contact, getting ahead of guys, and staying in the game as long as I can, which is what a starting pitcher is supposed to do, definitely feels more comfortable for me.”

Charlie Manuel likes to say, "Know thyself." Eflin knows himself. Using the two-seamer and pitching to contact gives him more confidence.

“Absolutely,” he said. “There’s always a time for swing and miss and four-seamers and stuff like that. Fortunately for me, I was able to throw a really good sinker and get some groundballs tonight.”

Eflin confirmed that his July struggles made him decide to go back to featuring his sinker.

“It had been the couple outings previous to me going to the bullpen that I was kind of really wanting to go back to sinker-balling and getting early contact,” he said. “That’s when I got moved to the bullpen and it was kind of tough to figure out what I wanted to do from a bullpen standpoint, whether I wanted to keep doing the swing-and-miss stuff or start implementing my sinker. It had been three or four weeks in the making and then going back to the rotation I was pretty dead set on it.”

Eflin said he had a conversation with pitching coach Chris Young “and he was all for” the change in approach.

“I didn't demand it at all,” Eflin said. “We simply sat down and talked about it and I told him what I thought I was best at doing. At the end of the day, it’s a two-way street. They want what’s best for me, as well. If I’m at my best going out there throwing sinkerballs and getting early contact and going late into the game, then ultimately that’s what’s going to be best for the team. There was no point where they were against me doing it.”

Eflin mixed in four-seamers, sliders, curveballs and changeups in stopping the Marlins on Saturday night. The Marlins put up 19 runs on the Phillies on Friday night and the team needed a big performance from Eflin.

“A lot of weak contact on the ground, good two-seamer in the zone, attacking, efficient, and strong through six innings for us,” was manager Gabe Kapler’s appraisal of Eflin’s outing.

Kapler was asked about the genesis of Eflin’s change in approach. Did the pitcher push for it? Did the team?

“I think it’s a combination of both,” Kapler said. “It’s something that he feels comfortable with. I know that Chris Young likes to run (the two-seamer) in on the hands of right-handed hitters. If Zach Eflin is getting the ball on the ground, something good is happening. So, obviously, swings and misses are nice and there are going to be times for those, and right now he’s focusing on weak contact, efficiency and getting the ball on the ground and being successful with that approach.”

Kapler was asked about how that approach could help Eflin’s confidence.

“I think it’s less about something that specific and more about him feeling like his body is strong, he’s capable of giving us length, he’s capable of being efficient, and less about one pitch in particular,” Kapler said. “I’m not saying that it’s not important, I just don’t think that it’s — I think it’s much more the aggregate of what he’s doing right now rather than him leaning more heavily on the two-seamer. He also used a curveball and a slider successfully today and some four-seamers at times.”

In the end, it doesn’t matter how Zach Eflin rediscovers his effectiveness. All that matters is that he does. The Phillies are in a playoff chase. They have 34 games left. They desperately need starting pitchers not named Aaron Nola to step up. Maybe Eflin, back in his comfort zone, can be one of those guys. In the meantime, the Phillies look to make it a 4-1 trip behind Nola on Sunday.

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Phillies brush off terrible loss, hold big lead this time against Marlins

Phillies brush off terrible loss, hold big lead this time against Marlins

BOX SCORE 

MIAMI — The Phillies rebounded from a horrendous loss the night before and beat the troublesome Miami Marlins, 9-3, on Saturday night.

Zach Eflin delivered a strong start and Scott Kingery and Corey Dickerson keyed the offense.

The Phillies blew a 7-0 lead in losing the series opener by a score of 19-11 on Friday night.

The Phillies entered Saturday 2 ½ games back in the NL wild-card chase. The win left the Phillies at 67-61. They are 7-8 against the Marlins this season.

The change in approach

Eflin had a terrible month of July and ended up being demoted to the bullpen. He returned to the rotation last week with a renewed commitment to throwing his sinker, or two-seam fastball, the pitch that got him to the majors. His use of the pitch had dropped because team officials had urged him to throw his four-seam fastball up in the zone to counteract hitters looking to launch.

Eflin threw 37 percent sinkers in his last start. That percentage jumped to 47 percent (37 of 79 pitches) in this outing. Eflin got 10 outs on the ground on his way to six innings of two-run ball.

The right-hander struck out just two, but he made it clear after his last start that he would prioritize outs over strikeouts and early contact over swings and misses. He did not walk a batter in his six innings of work.

Big hits

Dickerson had a pair of doubles and five RBIs. In four games on the trip, he has five hits, including four for extra bases, and nine RBIs.

Kingery keyed the Phillies’ six-run fourth inning with a three-run homer.

Miami’s ugly inning

The Phillies had an ugly inning Friday night.

The Marlins had one in this game.

Starter Jordan Yamamoto and reliever Tyler Kinley combined to allow five hits, four walks and six runs in the top of the fourth inning.

The ineffective duo combined to throw an absurd 62 pitches in the frame, the most in any half-inning in the majors this season.

The Marlins walked 10 batters in the game. On Friday night, they walked 10 batters and gave up 11 hits. That was another reason the Phillies’ 19-11 loss was so galling on Friday night. The Marlins tried to give the Phillies the game and the Phils could not take it.

A problem

With Bryce Harper out on paternity leave, the Phillies have had to move Adam Haseley from center field to right field and Kingery from third base to center field. That has compromised the defense at third base in this series. Between them, Brad Miller and Maikel Franco accounted for four misplays at third base in Friday night’s game. Miller failed to make a play on one and Franco had a tough time on three balls, including one that was ruled an error and ultimately led to four unearned runs in the fifth inning.

In the bottom of the first inning Saturday night, Miller failed to make a play on a ball that was ruled an infield hit but could easily have been scored an error. That eventually became a run charged to Eflin.

Harper is expected to return to action Monday night at home.

Look in the mirror

The Phillies sent pitcher Nick Pivetta to the minors. Manager Gabe Kapler said the right-hander needed to be more accountable (see story).

Up next

The Phillies will look to win the series behind ace Aaron Nola (12-3, 3.51) on Sunday afternoon. Nola has faced the Marlins twice this season and given up just two earned runs in 14 2/3 innings. He has a 3.23 ERA in 12 career starts against the Marlins.

Four games into this five-game trip, the Phillies are 3-1. As bad as Friday night’s loss was, this still could end up being a good trip if the Phils take care of business Sunday.

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