A.J. Burnett, Phillies open 2nd half with loss


A.J. Burnett, Phillies open 2nd half with loss


ATLANTA -- In the long run, a bad start against the Atlanta Braves on a rainy Friday night probably won’t affect A.J. Burnett’s trade value all that much.

After all, the guy is in his 16th big-league season and the book on him is as thick as a 48-ounce Porterhouse. Rival teams know who he is and what he can do.

But two weeks before the trade deadline, it’s always preferable when a very available pitcher turns in a quality outing. Burnett failed to do that as the Phillies came back from the All-Star break and suffered a 6-4 loss to the Braves at Turner Field (see Instant Replay).

“Everything was up, man,” Burnett said after giving up 10 hits and six runs in five innings. “Everything was up and I was off. The changeups were up. The curveball was up. A few innings in the middle I got it where I wanted to, but I was inconsistent, and you can't pitch against this club and be inconsistent."

Burnett entered the game on a nice roll, recording seven straight quality starts.

He was presented with a tidy 2-0 lead in the second inning, but that didn’t last long. Burnett allowed a leadoff home run to Jason Heyward in the bottom of the second then gave up four two-out hits, including one to the opposing pitcher, and three more runs as his 2-0 lead became a 4-2 deficit.

“You want to come out when you get an early lead and put up a shutdown inning and I just didn’t do it,” he said. “No excuses. I just didn’t get it done.”

Nine of the 10 hits that Burnett allowed came with two outs. Five of the six runs he allowed came with two outs.

“A pitch here, and a pitch there ... you have to make pitches,” he said. “I was in counts where you have to make pitches, and I just didn't."

Burnett appeared to be angry, possibly with catcher Cameron Rupp, after he left the game. Burnett said he was angry with himself.

“Six runs in five innings,” he said. “That was pretty much the reason. No excuses. I just didn’t get it done.”

Manager Ryne Sandberg also said Burnett was simply frustrated with himself.

"Ten hits and six runs," Sandberg said. "He labored."

With their top two catchers on the disabled list, the Phillies have been using Rupp and Koyie Hill at the position. Both could be headed back to Triple A in the coming week as Carlos Ruiz and Wil Nieves are expected to soon come off the disabled list.

With the loss, the Phillies fell to 12 games under .500 and 11 games back in the division.

The only drama now is who will be here in two weeks when the trade deadline arrives. The Phillies have three starting pitchers who could go -- Burnett, Cliff Lee and Kyle Kendrick. They have a pair of relievers -- Antonio Bastardo and Jonathan Papelbon -- who could be had. They have a power bat on the block in Marlon Byrd.

Byrd went hitless with a strikeout and a walk Friday night. The Phillies had just six hits.

Ryan Howard, who entered the game hitting .141 in his previous 21 games, had a walk and a two-run single against winning pitcher Ervin Santana in the sixth inning. The single was a broken-bat hit, but Howard still swung the bat better than in recent games. He lined out to right in the eighth. Heyward made a terrific diving catch to rob Howard of a hit.

Cole Hamels pitches for the Phillies on Saturday night.

“The guys bounce back each day, that’s been the demeanor of the team,” Sandberg said. “Come back tomorrow. We have Cole on the mound, so we’ll look forward to that.”

Phillies Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning recovering from stroke

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Phillies Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning recovering from stroke

National Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher and Phillies great Jim Bunning is recovering from a stroke, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Bunning, who suffered the stroke Tuesday night in his Southgate, Kentucky, home, was moved from intensive care to a transitional care unit on Thursday night, per the report.

Bunning "has been provided skilled care that is leading him on the road to recovery," the family said in a statement Friday.

"The Bunning family wants to thank the first responders and medical personnel who have been treating dad," the statement said. "We sincerely appreciate the thoughts and prayers of all who are concerned about our father’s health. However, so we can focus our efforts on dad’s recovery, we ask the press to respect our family’s privacy at this time. We will let everyone know as his health continues to improve."

The 84-year old is one of two Phillies pitchers to toss a perfect game in the organization’s history. He accomplished the feat on Father’s Day in 1964.

Along with the Phillies, Bunning played for the Tigers, Pirates and Dodgers in his 17-year career. The righthander, who was enshrined on the Phillies Wall of Fame in 1984, won 89 games and posted a 2.93 ERA in six seasons in Philadelphia. 

After his baseball days, Bunning started a career in politics. He served stints in Congress and the U.S. Senate before retiring in 2010.

MLB playoffs: Cubs advance to first World Series since 1945

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MLB playoffs: Cubs advance to first World Series since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton Kershaw, Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.

Lineup shuffle
Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.

Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.