Phillies

Best of MLB: Twins, Cubs clinch postseason berths

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Best of MLB: Twins, Cubs clinch postseason berths

CLEVELAND -- The Minnesota Twins became the first team to make the playoffs after losing at least 100 games the previous season, clinching an AL wild-card berth on Wednesday when the Los Angeles Angels lost 6-4 in 10 innings at Chicago.

The Twins couldn't secure their first spot in the postseason by themselves, losing 4-2 to the Indians, but that hardly mattered for a team that has overcome adversity and defied expectations while joining October's elite.

They won only 59 games a year ago, and it seemed as if the young Twins would be lucky to be competitive when the season began. But they got hot in August and haven't looked back in becoming the 13th team -- and first since the 2009 Seattle Mariners -- to go from 100-plus losses to a winning record the following season.

Nearly two hours after losing, the Twins began a celebration that seemed unimaginable two months ago.

Minnesota will play at either Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park in the wild-card game Tuesday night. Boston holds a three-game lead over New York in the AL East race (see full recap).

Cubs clinch 2nd straight NL central title
ST. LOUIS, Missouri -- Addison Russell hit a three-run homer and John Lackey pitched six strong innings as the Chicago Cubs clinched their second consecutive National League Central title with a 5-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday.

The Cubs reached the postseason for the third straight year for the first time since 1908. They are also the first defending World Series champion to win their division the next season since the 2009 Philadelphia Phillies and the first defending champion to reach the playoffs the next season since the Cardinals won the wild card in 2012.

The Cubs became the second visiting team to celebrate a title at Busch Stadium III. The 2009 Los Angeles Dodgers won the NLDS at St. Louis.

Lackey (12-11) retired the final 10 batters he faced. The former Cardinal struck out three and gave up two hits and two walks.

Six Cubs relievers combined for three scoreless innings of relief (see full recap).

Red Sox cut magic number to 2 with victory
BOSTON -- Reigning AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello struggled in his final playoff tuneup, and David Price relieved him to solidify his role on the postseason roster as the Boston Red Sox beat Toronto 10-7 on Wednesday night to lower their magic number to two.

Hanley Ramirez and Xander Bogaerts homered in a five-run third inning for Boston after Porcello (11-17) gave up three runs in the first. The Red Sox scored one in the first and three in the second and then took a 9-4 lead in the third to chase Marco Estrada (10-9) and snap a two-game losing streak.

Boston, which is already guaranteed a playoff berth, maintained a three-game lead over the second-place Yankees in the division. They need two more wins or two more New York losses to clinch the first back-to-back AL East titles in franchise history (see full recap).

Diamondbacks rally for walk-off win over Giants
PHOENIX -- David Peralta capped a three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning by drawing a one-out, bases-loaded walk, giving the Arizona Diamondbacks a 4-3 win over the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday.

J.D. Martinez led off the inning with a solo homer, tying Ralph Kiner's 1949 NL record for home runs in September with 16. Martinez has 45 homers this season, 29 of them with the Diamondbacks, who acquired him in a trade with the Tigers on July 18.

His 36 RBIs this month set an Arizona record, surpassing Luis Gonzalez' 35 in June 2001.

Daniel Descalso jogged home with the winning run in the Diamondbacks' regular-season home finale. Arizona will be back in action at Chase Field next Wednesday in the NL wild card game.

All of the runs were charged to Giants closer Sam Dyson (3-3). J.J. Hoover (3-1) earned the win in relief.

Pablo Sandoval doubled twice and drove in two runs, and Jeff Samardzija threw three-hit ball for six innings for the Giants (see full recap).

Phillies score 10 runs and win but still leave behind a sour taste

Phillies score 10 runs and win but still leave behind a sour taste

Such an enigmatic group, these Phillies.

How crazy is it that on an afternoon when the Phils scored 10 runs to finish off an unlikely series victory, the leftover taste was a sour one because of the bullpen.

Gabe Kapler tried to show confidence in Hector Neris in the ninth inning for the second straight game. It worked Saturday but not Sunday.

After needing eight pitches in a 1-2-3 save Saturday, Neris allowed four runs and two homers in two-thirds of an inning to turn a 10-5 lead into a 10-9 game (see first take)

Kapler was forced to turn to Jake Thompson, who threw one pitch to get the save.

At this point, how can Kapler go back to Neris late in a close game? He attempted to use Neris in low-leverage situations — prior to Saturday, each of his last six outings came in games well in-hand — but it hasn't worked. 

Neris has a 6.00 ERA and has allowed eight home runs in 27 innings. To put that in perspective, Aaron Nola has allowed six home runs in 95⅓ innings. 

Neris' velocity was crisp Sunday, reaching as high as 98 mph. But the location, again, was off. Too many pitches in the middle of the plate.

The Phillies have a 4.56 ERA in the ninth inning. That's fourth-worst in the majors and second-worst in the NL, ahead of only the Marlins. Remove Neris from the equation and the Phils' ninth-inning ERA is 3.52.

The Phillies' bullpen was supposed to be a strength. But Pat Neshek hasn't pitched, Neris has fallen flat, Tommy Hunter is only starting to get into a groove and Luis Garcia is on the DL after several rough outings in a row.

Kapler must be careful of overusing Seranthony Dominguez, who factors into their ninth-inning plans far beyond this year. But aside from Dominguez, the only relievers the Phillies have who've been reliable more often than not are Edubray Ramos and Victor Arano. 

It's a precarious position to be in, yet the Phils are 12-6 in one-run games this season. Only the Mariners, Yankees, Brewers and Braves have a better winning percentage in such games. 

Nick Pivetta is on the hill Monday at home against the Cardinals. The Phillies badly need a long outing from him after their starters accounted for just 57% of the innings in Milwaukee.

It would be the perfect time for Pivetta to get back on track after allowing 13 runs in his last 14 innings and failing to pitch into the sixth four starts in a row.

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Maikel Franco picks up Aaron Nola for unlikely Phillies series win

Maikel Franco picks up Aaron Nola for unlikely Phillies series win

BOX SCORE

The Phillies didn't get the kind of start from Aaron Nola they've been accustomed to but were still able to finish off an impressive series win Sunday by beating the Brewers 10-9.

As bad as they looked Friday night, this turned out to be a strong week for the Phils, who have won four of six games and two straight series over the Rockies and Brewers. 

The Phils are 37-32 and have been at least two games over .500 every day since April 13. The Brewers still own the best record in the National League at 42-29.

After this quick trip to Milwaukee, the Phillies are back home Monday through Wednesday against the Cardinals before going to Washington for the weekend. After that, they have an eight-game homestand.

Franco connects

Maikel Franco hasn't played much lately but got the start Sunday with J.P. Crawford playing shortstop in place of Scott Kingery.

In his second at-bat against right-hander Chase Anderson, Franco connected on a hanging, middle-in curveball for a two-run homer to left field.

In the seventh inning, Franco gave the Phillies some insurance with a rare single to right-center in a high-pressure situation. Franco's line drive drove in two more runs as he completed a four-RBI day. 

In nine career games at Miller Park, Franco is 14 for 30 (.467) with four homers and 14 RBI.

He's never going to be a high-OBP guy, but Franco can still pound mistakes here and there. The Phillies think Crawford has more upside offensively and defensively, but right now, Franco is the more effective option between the two because of this ability to occasionally run into a two-run homer.

The league knows what Franco is. He's likely never going to have significant trade value because of his .298 career on-base percentage in just under 1,900 plate appearances. But he does have mid-20s home run power. He has nine this season after hitting 24 last season and 25 the year before.

Neris … not so good

Kapler turned to Hector Neris in the ninth inning for the second day in a row and this time, it didn't work.

Neris gave up four runs with the Phillies up by five and was pulled with two outs for Jake Thompson.

Neris allowed home runs to Jesus Aguilar and Eric Thames, with Thames' three-run shot coming at the literal four-hour mark of the game — 4:00:00.

This game lasted 4 hours and 3 minutes, making it the Phils' longest non-extra-inning game since July 6, 2015 at Dodger Stadium.

The Phillies' ERA in the ninth inning this season is now 4.56 — fourth-worst in the majors and second-worst in the NL ahead of only the Marlins.

Hoskins stays hot

After demolishing a 431-foot home run Saturday, Rhys Hoskins hit another two-run shot to left in his first at-bat on Father's Day.

This one wasn't hit quite as hard but was a majestic, high shot that just kept carrying and carrying.

Hoskins is seeing the ball well. In a later at-bat, he hung with a low-and-away curveball and just missed the barrel, flying out to left field.

Since fracturing his jaw, Hoskins is 11 for 30 (.367) with three doubles, four homers, 11 RBI and four walks in nine games.

Williams' decisive blow

The half-inning after Nola exited his shortest start in over a year, Nick Williams delivered the key blow for the Phillies, a two-run single up the middle with the bases loaded.

Williams has had a productive week, going 6 for 13 with two doubles, a homer, four RBI, two walks and two hit by pitches in his last five games.

Up next

Pitching matchups for the Cardinals series:

Monday: Nick Pivetta (4-6, 4.25) vs. Miles Mikolas (7-2, 2.43)

Tuesday: Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.74) vs. Luke Weaver (3-6, 4.52)

Wednesday: Jake Arrieta (5-5, 3.33) vs. Michael Wacha (8-2, 3.24)

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