Phillies

MLB Playoffs: Dallas Keuchel strikes out 10 as Astros win Game 1 of ALCS

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MLB Playoffs: Dallas Keuchel strikes out 10 as Astros win Game 1 of ALCS

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HOUSTON -- Dallas Keuchel faced the New York Yankees in the postseason for the second time and the Houston Astros ace shut them down again.

Keuchel struck out 10 in seven scoreless innings to help Houston to the 2-1 victory on Friday night in the AL Championship Series opener.

"I think it's just pitch execution, and it's just been there more times than it hasn't against the Yankees," Keuchel said.

Keuchel threw six scoreless innings in a 3-0 win over New York in the 2015 AL wild card game.

He allowed four hits -- all singles -- and walked one to improve to 8-2 with a 1.09 ERA in eight starts against the Yankees in the regular season and postseason combined. He joined Nolan Ryan and Mike Scott as the only Astros pitchers to reach double digits in strikeouts in a postseason game.

"Late movement -- he moves the ball and he commands it well," the Yankees Greg Bird said.

Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel hit RBI singles in the fourth off loser Masahiro Tanaka, and left fielder Marwin Gonzalez threw out Bird at the plate trying to score on Aaron Judge's two-out single in the fifth.

"We had a shot," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "If Bird's safe maybe we really get to him in that inning."

Bird homered off Ken Giles with two outs in the ninth, and the closer struck out pinch-hitter Jacoby Ellsbury . Giles, who threw a season-high 37 pitches, escaped a two-out jam in the eighth by striking out Didi Gregorius .

Greeted by MVP chants each time to the plate, Jose Altuve had three more hits and at 11 for 19 (.579) has the most hits in a team's first five postseason games since Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki in 2001.

Houston is in the Championship Series for the first time since beating St. Louis in 2005. The Yankees, who overcame a 2-0 deficit to beat Cleveland in the Division Series, lost their sixth straight ALCS game since 2010.

After the Astros totaled eight runs in the first innings of their four AL Division Series games, Tanaka kept the Astros hitless until Altuve's infield single rolled through the pitcher's legs in the fourth. Altuve swiped second before scoring on Correa's single. Gurriel followed with a two-out single, his 10th hit of the postseason.

Bird singled to start the fifth and Matt Holliday, making his first appearance of the postseason, reached when Altuve dropped his slow bouncer to second for an error. Judge singled with two outs and Gonzalez, throwing with such force that he fell to the ground, made a 97 mph one-hop throw to catcher Brian McCann, who tagged the sliding Bird.

"That was their best moment in the game, (I needed) to stop the momentum," Gonzalez said. "All I was thinking was to go get the ball as fast as I could."

The call was confirmed in a video review.

"I'm too slow. I wish I was a little faster," Bird said.

Primarily an infielder, Gonzalez had just two outfield assists in the regular season. He beat his hand into his glove three times in celebration after watching McCann make the tag.

"It's one of the best throws I've ever seen from an outfielder," Correa said. "Long hop, low tag right there. It was just perfect. Unbelievable."

Gonzalez threw out Boston's Mitch Moreland at the plate in the Division Series finale and is the first outfielder with assists in consecutive postseason games since Jim Rice in the 1986 World Series. He joined Lance Berkman as the only players in franchise history to have two outfield assists in one postseason.

After controversially failing to challenge a call in Game 2 of the Division Series, Girardi didn't hesitate to ask for a review.

"We thought he was out," he said. "But God knows I'm not doing that again."

Up next
Yankees: Luis Severino will make his third start of this postseason on Saturday. Severino yielded three runs and four hits in seven innings of a win in Game 4 of the ALDS to bounce back after allowing three runs and getting just one out in the wild-card game.

"I feel good, I feel confident in myself," he said. "I knew that that first start I did, that wasn't me, and I made adjustments. That's how we do it; we make adjustments and the second start I put in place those adjustments and did good."

Astros: Justin Verlander is scheduled to make his 18th playoff start on Saturday. Verlander got the win in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Red Sox and picked up win No. 2 of this postseason when he made his first career relief appearance in Game 4. He's 9-5 with a 3.36 ERA and 115 strikeouts in his postseason career.

Game 3
Manager A.J. Hinch announced that Charlie Morton will start Game 3 and that Lance McCullers, a starter who pitched in relief in the ALDS, could pitch Game 4. The Yankees will start CC Sabathia in Game 3 and Sonny Gray in Game 4.

Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

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Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

Most of the baseball world agrees that the Phillies are improved with the additions of No. 2 starter Zack Wheeler, shortstop Didi Gregorius, and the new contingent of manager Joe Girardi, pitching coach Bryan Price and hitting coach Joe Dillon.

The question is how much improved?

The Phils won 81 games last season, a year after winning 80. Both years, they totally collapsed in September. Both years, a good number of players were simply playing out the string, though the effort level was more questionable in 2018 than in 2019.

Even though the Phillies were quiet this offseason after their two big signings, and even though the NL East is still a beast, they should still exceed 81 wins. If they don't, there's a serious problem. If they don't, the GM probably won't be here to try to rectify things next offseason.

The over/under win totals are out and the Phillies' number is 85.5 at FanDuel and 84.5 at DraftKings.

I'd go over at 84.5. Think about how many injuries the Phillies suffered last season. Think about the talent gap between Wheeler and every Phillies starting pitcher behind Aaron Nola last season. The impact of Girardi, Price and Dillon won't be all that quantifiable, but it is realistic that this revamped coaching staff can conjure a few more wins out of the 2020 Phillies, whether it's in-game decision-making or better instructions given to young players who underperformed last season.

At DraftKings, the Mets' over/under is a game better than the Phillies' at 85.5. The Braves are at 90.5 and the Nationals 88.5. The Marlins are at 64.5, higher than only one team, the Tigers.

Much more surprising are the Phillies' World Series odds. They have the sixth-shortest odds to win it all. Seriously. They're +1800. Here is the Top 10:

Yankees: 3.5/1
Dodgers: 5/1
Astros: 6/1
Braves: 11/1
Nationals: 14/1
Phillies: 18/1
Mets: 20/1
Twins: 20/1
Red Sox: 22/1
Cubs: 22/1

Apparently, the expectation is that the NL Central will be bringing up the rear in 2020. Really, the only NL Central team that improved was the Reds. The Cardinals lost Marcell Ozuna, the Brewers lost Yasmani Grandal and the Cubs didn't spend money on a single major-league free agent.

Four of the top seven teams being NL East teams just shows you how much of a battle these next seven months will be for the Phils.

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Phillies prospects Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm make Baseball America's Top 100 list

Phillies prospects Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm make Baseball America's Top 100 list

Baseball America’s always interesting Top 100 Prospects list landed this week and the Phillies are represented with two players in the top half.

Starting pitcher Spencer Howard ranks 27th on the list and third baseman Alec Bohm 28th. Both players are projected to open the coming season at Triple A and get to the majors at some point in 2020. Both have been invited to major-league spring training camp, which begins in less than three weeks in Clearwater. See the complete list of Phillies’ in-house non-roster invites here.

Howard, a 23-year-old right-hander, was the Phillies’ second-round draft pick in 2017. We profiled him here.

In its story on the Top 100 prospects, Baseball America offered this take on Howard: Triple-digit fastball, swing-and-miss curveball and the ability to work the edges of the strike zone, Howard flashes front-end potential.

Bohm, 23, was the third overall pick in the 2018 draft. He hit .305 with 21 homers, 80 RBIs and a .896 OPS at three levels, including Double A in 2019. We profiled him here.

Baseball America offered this take on Bohm: Even with questions about whether he’ll have to move to first base, Bohm has the feel to hit and plus power to hit in the middle of the Phillies’ order, and soon.

Shortstop Wander Franco of the Tampa Bay Rays was ranked No. 1 on Baseball America’s list for the second year in a row. The Rays placed eight players on the list. Because of a loaded farm system, the Rays were unable to protect left-hander Cristopher Sanchez on their 40-man roster and the Phillies traded for him in November. Read about Sanchez here.

The Los Angeles Dodgers placed seven players on the list and the Minnesota Twins and San Diego Padres had six each.

The Miami Marlins led National League East teams with five players in the Top 100, including former Phillies pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, who was traded for J.T. Realmuto a year ago. Sanchez ranks 16th on the list and is projected to arrive in the majors sometime in 2020.

The Atlanta Braves placed four players on the list and the Washington Nationals and New York Mets joined the Phillies with two players.

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