A.J. Burnett flops in final start before deadline

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A.J. Burnett flops in final start before deadline

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- A gaggle of scouts from pitching-needy teams assembled behind the backstop at Citi Field on Monday night for a matchup between two clubs bound for Nowhereville.

The attraction: Veteran right-handers A.J. Burnett and Bartolo Colon. Neither is the caliber of a David Price, a Jon Lester or a Cliff Lee, but both are serviceable second-tier starters that could probably help a contending team.

In his final start before Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline, Burnett flopped. He was hit hard in the Phillies’ 7-1 loss to the New York Mets (see Instant Replay).

“Just a brutal effort,” said Burnett, who allowed eight hits, five for extra bases, as his record fell to 6-10 with a 4.15 ERA in 23 starts.

Colon, 41, carried a shutout into the eighth inning before the Phillies scored their only run of the game on back-to-back doubles by Domonic Brown and Carlos Ruiz.

The Phillies had 13 hits (four each by Ruiz and Marlon Byrd) on the night, but just two extra-base hits. They left 12 men on base.

“The big hit,” manager Ryne Sandberg lamented. “The extra-base hit with men on base to score multiple runs. That’s something that has lacked.”

The Phils have played 106 games and scored two or fewer runs in 40 of them. Only San Diego has scored two or fewer runs in more games (51).

Scouts from Toronto, Kansas City and St. Louis were all in attendance. All are looking for a starting pitcher.

After this one, Colon, owed $11 million for next season, might be more attractive to those teams than Burnett, who has a player option that could be worth as much as $12.75 million next season, depending on how many starts he ends up making this season.

Unlike teammate Jonathan Papelbon, who can’t wait to get out of Philadelphia, Burnett is not eager to move on.

“This is my team,” he has said of the Phillies several times in recent weeks.

After his final start before the deadline, Burnett made it clear he was in no mood to talk about a possible trade.

“I have no clue [what’s going to happen],” he said. “I don’t like to talk about it. As soon as I hear talk about it, I walk the other way. I don’t want to be around it. I focus on today, the game that’s ahead of us, not where we could end up or what could happen.”

If the Phillies are able to make a deal before Thursday, outfielder Byrd and reliever Antonio Bastardo probably stand the best chance to go. Byrd, who had four singles, is still coveted by Seattle, but the Mariners would have to guarantee his $8 million option for 2016 to get him. Bastardo had a rough homestand, but there are still enough teams looking for relievers that he could go. But he certainly didn't help his value with his poor work at home.

As for Lee and Cole Hamels. Well, Lee probably hasn’t shown enough in two starts off the disabled list to have top value. He could still be an August waiver deal. Hamels is available -- he, along with every other Phillie, has been for weeks -- but the Phils want a huge haul for him.

After Monday night’s game, Sandberg was asked what he considered the greater need going forward, starting pitching or offense.

“Overall, I think you need starting pitching to compete,” he said. “Generally speaking, good pitching with defense can give you a chance.”

Read into this comment and you can see the skipper favors keeping Hamels. That is the organization’s mindset, as well: Build around Hamels -- unless some team blooooows you away.

Burnett threw 131 pitches in his previous start, but said that had nothing to do with his problems on Monday night.

“Everything was flat, up, no life,” he said of his pitches.

Burnett had a lot of trouble keeping the ball out of the middle of the plate. That’s a recipe for hard-hit balls and the Mets had several. They had three doubles on their way to scoring four times in the first inning. Travis d’Arnaud belted a three-run homer with two outs in the fifth.

“We dug ourselves an early hole,” Sandberg said.

The manager has said that a lot this season. And chances are he will again before it's all over.

Tonight's lineup: Herrera leads off as Hernandez sits

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Tonight's lineup: Herrera leads off as Hernandez sits

With eight games left in the Phillies' season, Pete Mackanin is still playing to win.

After dropping the series opener in Atlanta, 7-2, Mackanin makes several changes to his lineup. His first change is at the top of the order, as Cesar Hernandez sits and Odubel Herrera moves up to the leadoff spot.

The decision to rest Hernandez appears based on his poor career numbers against Atlanta's starter, Julio Teheran. Hernandez is 3-28 against Teheran, while Herrera is 5-23. Teheran is 1-2 this season against the Phillies. He won his previous start against them on Aug. 30, allowing just one run and striking out eight in 6 2/3 innings pitched. 

Herrera has no hits and six strikeouts in his last 12 at-bats. He's also been chasing a lot of pitches outside of the strike zone, and has only one walk since Sept. 9. At .281, his batting average is the lowest it has been since Aug. 6.  

J.P. Crawford, who has looked smooth at third base, shifts to second base to accommodate the change. Maikel Franco slots back in at third .

Mackanin's final change is swapping catcher Jorge Alfaro for Cameron Rupp. With the Phillies getting an extended look at Alfaro, Rupp's playing time has recently decreased. This is his first start since Sept. 17 against Oakland.

In his second start for the Phillies, Henderson Alvarez won't have to do much to better Ben Lively's outing Friday night. Lively conceded six hits and five runs before recording an out. Alvarez's start on Sunday, when he allowed four runs in five innings, was his first major league game in the past 28 months. An All-Star in 2014, Alvarez's career was derailed by injuries. 

Below is Saturday's lineup:

1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Nick Williams, RF
4. Rhys Hoskins, 1B
5. Aaron Altherr, LF
6. Maikel Franco, 3B
7. J.P. Crawford, 2B
8. Cameron Rupp, C
9. Henderson Alvarez, P

And the Braves' lineup:

1. Ender Inciarte, CF
2. Ozzie Albies, 2B
3. Nick Markakis, RF
4. Tyler Flowers, C
5. Matt Adams, 1B
6. Dansby Swanson, SS
7. Rio Ruiz, 3B
8. Jace Peterson, LF
9. Julio Teheran, P

 

Best of MLB: Cubs take control in NL Central with win over Brewers

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Best of MLB: Cubs take control in NL Central with win over Brewers

MILWAUKEE -- Pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella drew a bases-loaded walk off All-Star closer Corey Knebel with one out in the 10th inning, helping the Chicago Cubs beat the Milwaukee Brewers 5-4 on Friday night to tighten their grip on the NL Central.

The Cubs hold a five-game lead with nine days left in the regular season after winning their second straight tense game over the Brewers. Milwaukee dropped into third in the division, 5 1/2 games behind Chicago, after St. Louis beat Pittsburgh earlier Friday.

The Brewers had the tying run at first with one out in the bottom of the 10th, but Eric Sogard was called out at second trying to advance on a ball in the dirt. Shortstop Addison Russell appeared to hold the tag as Sogard's foot lifted off second for a split-second, and the call was confirmed on review (see full recap).

Ryan Goins' hidden-ball trick, grand slam lead Blue Jays over Yankees
TORONTO -- Ryan Goins successfully pulled off a hidden ball trick and hit his second career grand slam, leading the Toronto Blue Jays over Masahiro Tanaka and the Yankees 8-1 Friday night and ensuring New York had to wait at least one more day to clinch a playoff berth.

With Todd Frazier on base following a leadoff double in the third, Jose Bautista made a running catch just in front of the right field warning track on Jacoby Ellsbury's one-out drive. Goins caught Bautista's throw while standing near second base, then pretended to toss the ball to pitcher Marco Estrada while slipping in into his glove.

Goins turned his back to Frazier, who had returned to the base, and when Frazier briefly lifted his left foot off the base, Goins tagged him on the left thigh. Frazier insisted he had maintained contact with the base, but umpire Mark Carlson called him out to end the inning (see full recap).

Red Sox rally for win over Reds, extend AL East lead
CINCINNATI -- Rafael Devers hit a three-run homer Friday night, and the Boston Red Sox extended their AL East lead to four games by overcoming Scooter Gennett's fourth grand slam of the season for a 5-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Boston added to its lead with the help of the Yankees' 8-1 loss at Toronto. The Red Sox have won 12 of 15, keeping the Yankees at bay while moving a season-high 25 games over .500 (89-64).

Their AL Cy Young Award winner is still struggling heading into playoff time.

Rick Porcello gave up Gennett's fourth grand slam -- a Reds' season record -- in the first inning. He lasted a season-low four innings, turning a 5-4 lead over to the bullpen. Porcello has lost 17 games -- most in the majors -- after winning 22 last year along with the Cy Young (see full recap).

Cardinals rally past Pirates in 9th
PITTSBURGH -- Randal Grichuk scored after an error by Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer, capping a frantic ninth-rally that lifted the surging St. Louis Cardinals over Pittsburgh 4-3 on Friday night.

The playoff-chasing Cardinals won their fifth straight, despite trailing by a run entering the ninth.

Stephen Piscotty led off with a double to right against closer Felipe Rivero (5-3), and Jedd Gyorko followed with a pinch-hit RBI single. After Tommy Pham's single, Grichuk pinch-ran for Gyorko at third. He scored when Mercer misplayed Dexter Fowler's sharp groundball.

Former Pirates reliever Juan Nicasio (4-5) got the win after working the eighth and ninth. Fowler and Piscotty had two hits each.

David Freese had an RBI double for the Pirates, who have dropped eight of nine. Rivero blew a save for only the second time in 20 chances this season (see full recap).

Twins stay on track in postseason race with win over Tigers
DETROIT -- Max Kepler and Brian Dozier homered, Byron Buxton had three hits and the playoff-chasing Minnesota Twins beat the Detroit Tigers 7-3 on Friday night.

Buxton's two-run double in the fourth put the Twins ahead to stay against a Detroit team that announced before the game that manager Brad Ausmus will not be back in 2018.

Minnesota came into the night leading the race for the American League's second wild card by 2 games over Texas and the Los Angeles Angels.

Kyle Gibson (12-10) allowed three runs and five hits in seven innings for the Twins. He struck out six and walked two.

Daniel Norris (4-8) allowed five runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings.

Nicholas Castellanos and Ian Kinsler homered for Detroit, but the Tigers dropped to 4-18 in September (see full recap).