Capitals

Don't look now, but here come the Phillies!

880877.jpg

Don't look now, but here come the Phillies!

From Comcast SportsNetPHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Jimmy Rollins swigged champagne after winning a division title, went wild when the Phillies won the National League pennant, and took a ride on that unforgettable parade down the heart of Philadelphia after a World Series championship.The Phillies have done it all the last five years.Well, except win a wild card berth.Rollins connected on a two-run homer and Cliff Lee pitched seven strong innings to lead the streaking Phillies to their seventh straight win, 3-1 over the Miami Marlins on Wednesday.The second NL wild-card spot is firmly in sight for the Phillies with 19 games remaining."We're in it," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We're dead in it pretty good."Oh yes, they are. And they show no signs of slowing down.The Phillies continued their late push with a three-game sweep of the Marlins. Up next for the Phillies, four games in Houston against the NL-worst Astros. Then it's three games in New York against the going-nowhere Mets.Philadelphia pulled within three games of St. Louis for the second wild card after the Cardinals lost 3-2 in San Diego.The Phillies (72-71) are on a season-best winning streak and have won 15 of 19 to move over .500 for the first time since they were 28-27 on June 3."If we can continue to play the way we have since the All-Star break, we have a pretty good chance," Lee said.The clubhouse TVs had on a pair of games that will shape the NL wild-card race: St. Louis at San Diego and Pittsburgh at Cincinnati.The Phillies will have to at least get past the Cardinals and Pirates, two fading teams, to snag a postseason spot.This September has a familiar feel from 2007 when the Phillies trailed the Mets by seven games with 17 to play. The Mets collapsed and the Phillies would win their first division title since 1993.With Manuel calmly leading the way, the Phillies haven't skipped a postseason since, winning the World Series in 2008."We're in it pretty good," Manuel said.Phillippe Aumont worked a scoreless eighth and Jonathan Papelbon completed the four-hitter with his 34th save. Papelbon fanned Gorkys Hernandez with two runners on to end it.The five-time defending NL East champions have made an amazing run since they seemed out of contention at 37-51 on July 13. Fueled by a rotation that has found its groove, and unexpected contributions from role players, the Phillies have become one of the hottest teams in baseball.Their 15-4 record since Aug. 23 is the best in the National League and they are 21-8 in their last 29 home games.Josh Johnson (8-12) did his best to shut down the Phillies early, taking a no-hitter and a 1-0 lead into the sixth.Rollins led off the inning with a single, advanced to second on a sacrifice and scored on John Mayberry Jr.'s two-out single to center.With Ryan Howard and Chase Utley slumping, the Phillies have relied on clutch hits from unheralded players like Mayberry during this recent streak. Mayberry beat Colorado on Sunday with the winning single in the ninth inning.But it's the stars like Rollins, who declined to talk to the media, who still need to shine during the stretch drive.Lee (5-7) seemed headed toward a tough luck no-decision until the offense came through with timely hits in the seventh.Pinch hitting for Lee, Pete Orr hit a two-out single. Rollins followed with his 19th homer, a two-run shot to right, that sent the late-afternoon crowd into a frenzy and gave the Phillies a 3-1 lead.With little expected at the start of September, the Phillies are playing loose and having fun."Nobody's saying we've got to win 20 in a row," Orr said.Lee struck out the side in the fourth inning and fanned Hernandez to open the fifth. He tossed four-hit ball and struck out six in seven innings to earn only his second home victory of the season.Lee has regained his Cy Young form after making 13 starts to open the season without a win. He also had a stint on the disabled list and even had a 10-inning scoreless outing wasted against San Francisco when the Giants won 1-0 in the 11th."It's their pitching, that's how they're back in it," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said.Lee allowed only an unearned run in the sixth after two straight Marlins batters reached on errors.Rollins, who leads all NL shortstops in fielding percentage, booted Donovan Solo's grounder. Jose Reyes hit a one-hopper that Lee snagged wide of the mound, whirled around and threw wide to second for an error. Carlos Lee followed two batters later with an RBI single to right for the 1-0 lead.That's the kind of sloppy play that might have done in the Phillies before the All-Star break.Not this month.Notes: The Phillies are on their longest winning streak since a nine-game run from July 29-Aug. 6, 2011. ... Philadelphia's starting pitchers are 15-5 over the last 28 games. ... The Marlins head home to start a three-game series with the Reds. ... Marlins RF Justin Ruggiano was ejected in the second inning for arguing balls and strikes.

Quick Links

Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

usatsi_10360906.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

Free agency does not start until July 1, but John Carlson's agent is already taking calls from other interested teams.

The interview period began at 12 a.m. on Sunday morning, which means teams are now able to reach out to any potential free agents, but no contracts can be signed until July 1. While Brian MacLellan said Friday that a new deal with Carlson to keep him in Washington was "really close," Carlson's agent, Rick Curran, has made it clear there was no deal in place yet as of Sunday.

So does this mean Carlson now has one foot out the door?

Not necessarily.

At this point in the negotiation, Carlson has a major advantage and that advantage is time. Sunday's interview period is just another way to hold the Caps' feet to the fire. The closer we get to July 1, the more pressure the team is under to get a deal done.

But the Caps still have some leverage too.

“I love it here and all that,” Carlson said during on breakdown day. “I want to stay here, but there's more to it than that.”

By rule, as his current team, the Caps are the only team that can offer Carlson an eight-year deal.

So Carlson may have turned up the heat a few degrees on the Caps, but it's not time for fans to worry just yet.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Nationals look to avoid sweep against Phillies on Sunday night

Nationals look to avoid sweep against Phillies on Sunday night

WASHINGTON -- Having already won their first series at Nationals Park since April 2016, the Philadelphia Phillies will go for the sweep of Washington on Sunday night.

Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta (4-6, 4.08 ERA) faces Nationals right-hander Jefry Rodriguez (0-0, 4.66).

Pivetta was drafted by the Nationals in 2013 and went to the Phillies in 2015 as part of the Jonathan Papelbon trade.

After struggling for three straight starts -- giving up 13 runs in 14 innings -- Pivetta allowed two runs and four hits in 7 1/3 innings of a no-decision against the St. Louis Cardinals last time out, striking out a career-high 13 batters.

"That's some of the best stuff I've seen him have all year," catcher Andrew Knapp told mlb.com. "The curveball was electric."

Pivetta got 11 swings and misses with the curveball.

"It was nice to have it back," Pivetta told mlb.com. "It all started with my delivery. I was staying up through it, not trying to rush too much and it worked out."

It his first start -- and second big-league appearance -- the 24-year-old Rodriguez picked up a win against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. He allowed five runs, four hits and three walks in five innings.

Rodriguez and Satuday's losing pitcher, Erick Fedde, are filling in for injured starters Stephen Strasburg and Jeremy Hellickson.

The Phillies have outscored the Nationals 17-5 in the fist two games of the series. On Saturday, Maikel Franco had four hits and Carlos Santana homered to back Aaron Nola in a 5-3 victory.

"That was just a tremendous all-around baseball game," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said of Franco. "It's so interesting how we've been looking for him to be not just a hitter but a defender and a baserunner and an all-around athlete."

Franco drove in a run and scored twice, including the go-ahead run when he scored just ahead of the tag on Jesmuel Valentin's sacrifice fly.

The Phillies, who have won six of seven, pounded out double-digit hits for the second day in a row in Washington.

"They have a lot of patient hitters," Fedde said of the Phillies. "I think that's what makes it tough. Guys aren't swinging at bunch of junk, so you have to attack them."

The Phillies have now won four straight series for the first time since May 2016 and are 2-0 in what will be a stretch of 10 games against the Nationals and the New York Yankees.

Anthony Rendon homered and Daniel Murphy had a two-run single for Washington, which has lost three of four while scoring nine runs.

"Look, I've got all the confidence in the world we're going to start hitting," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "We'll start scoring some runs. Right now, the bullpen is a little beat up. We've got to get them going again."

Rendon is doing his part. In his las 15 games, he is batting .382 with seven doubles, two homers and 12 RBIs.

Hellickson (right groin strain) will make a rehab start Sunday for Class A Potomac and then is expected to rejoin the Nationals' rotation.

Hernandez said first baseman Ryan Zimmerman (right oblique strain) is about a week from beginning a rehab assignment.