Bad offense, bad 'pen, bad trip; Phils lose again


Bad offense, bad 'pen, bad trip; Phils lose again


MINNEAPOLIS -- The Phillies’ tour of the upper Midwest is turning into a disaster.

They suffered another loss to a last-place club Tuesday night when they were beaten by the Minnesota Twins, 3-2, in an interleague game at Target Field (see Instant Replay).

The Twins broke a 2-2 tie against relievers Mike Adams and Antonio Bastardo in the bottom of the eighth inning for the win.

Some of the ugly facts:

The Phils have been held to two of fewer runs in 23 of 65 games.

They have lost four in a row to last-place clubs Milwaukee and Minnesota.

The four losses have come after the Phils briefly poked their head above .500. They are now 31-34 and are eight games back of division-leading Atlanta in the NL East.

“It’s not good,” said Cole Hamels, who once again received little run support on a night he allowed just two runs over six innings. “It’s really not great. When you think you’ve finally got momentum and then you get the results we’ve been having, it’s not good.

“If [losses] add up, it’s not going to put us in a good situation. Losing four in a row makes it add up real fast, especially when we just got over .500. Now we have to start back over again.”

The Phillies are 2-12 in Hamels’ 14 starts. That’s mind-blowing considering Hamels entered this season on everybody’s short list of Cy Young candidates.

Hamels had a little hiccup in this game. He appeared a little unnerved by home-plate umpire Paul Emmel’s strike zone in fourth inning and got hit hard by four consecutive batters. Three of them doubled and one singled as the Twins took a 2-1 lead. Hamels did not give up a run the rest of the way but was out of the game earlier than he liked because the Twins fouled off a slew of pitches that pushed his count to 108.

Hamels would not admit to being frustrated with Emmel, even though he pointedly turned his back on the umpire at one point in the fourth inning.

“I have the utmost respect for umpires,” he said.

All right, on to where this game was lost. Obviously, the Phillies didn’t score enough against a pitcher -- P.J. Walters -- who entered the game with a .329 opponents’ batting average. Phillies hitters had typically poor plate discipline. Domonic Brown, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins all made outs with men on base by swinging at pitches out of the strike zone.

“Yeah,” manager Charlie Manuel said when asked about those at-bats. “But that’s who they are. Tomorrow night they might hit some pitches. That’s how our offense runs. That’s why you look there and see a .248 batting average. You can start right there. That’s inconsistency. We talk about it every night. Tomorrow night it might be there and the following night it won’t be. That’s kind of how it comes and goes.”

Howard did come up with a big hit for his club with two outs in the eighth when he benefited from the Twins’ decision not to employ a shift and slashed a single to right, through the hole between first and second. The hit scored Kevin Frandsen, who had led off with a pinch-hit single, with the tying run.

The game didn’t stay tied long.

Manuel went to Adams for the eighth. Adams had spent the previous four days nursing shoulder soreness caused by biceps tendinitis, but he felt good enough to go and Manuel said he felt confident in using the right-hander because “he was ready to pitch and I wanted to bring him in.”

Jamey Carroll, who entered the night hitting .202, was the first batter Adams faced. He walked on four pitches. Adams then allowed a single before getting two outs.

With runners on the corners, two outs and lefty-hitting Justin Morneau coming up, Manuel went to the lefty Bastardo. The count was 1-and-1 when Morneau fouled off two fastballs and two sliders. With the count 1-and-2, Bastardo threw a fastball down the middle -- he said he was trying to throw it to the outside part of the plate -- and Morneau drove it up the middle for the go-ahead run.

“We had two outs and Antonio just couldn’t get him,” Manuel said. “He had him 1-and-2 and it looked like he threw a fastball low down the middle of the plate or something. Antonio has to get Morneau. That’s why he’s there.”

Adams took the loss, his fourth. His ERA is 4.22. He has allowed 19 hits and 11 walks in 21 1/3 innings. The Phillies signed Adams to fix the eighth inning that was such a problem last year. He hasn’t.

“I’m disappointed I’m letting my teammates down,” Adams said. “I’m frustrated. It seems like it has been one at-bat, one hitter that’s been kicking my butt and I need to fix that.”

Adams had offseason surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome. Doctors removed the rib under his collarbone in the surgery. Earlier this season, Adams missed time with a bad back and recently was sidelined with the sore shoulder. He would not use health as an excuse for his performance Tuesday night.

“I’m good enough to go out there,” he said. “I’m just not pitching like I need to right now.”

MLB Playoffs: Cubs beat Dodgers, move one win away from World Series

MLB Playoffs: Cubs beat Dodgers, move one win away from World Series


LOS ANGELES -- One win away. Two chances at home. Seven decades of waiting.

The Chicago Cubs closed in on their first World Series trip since 1945 by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-4 on Thursday in Game 5 of their National League playoff.

Jon Lester pitched seven sharp innings, Addison Russell hit a tiebreaking homer and the Cubs grabbed a 3-2 lead in the NL Championship Series.

On deck, a pair of opportunities to wrap up that elusive pennant at Wrigley Field.

"The city of Chicago has got to be buzzing pretty much right now," manager Joe Maddon said. "We're not going to run away from anything. It's within our reach right now."

The Cubs' first opportunity to clinch comes Saturday night in Game 6, when Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw faces major league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks.

"That's a game we expect to win," Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said.

Of course, the Cubs were in the same favorable position 13 years ago -- heading home to Wrigley with a 3-2 lead in the NLCS.

But even with ace pitchers Mark Prior and Kerry Wood starting the final two games, Chicago collapsed against the Marlins in one of its most excruciating failures.

More than a decade later, the franchise is still chasing its first World Series championship since 1908.

"We've heard the history," center fielder Dexter Fowler said, "but at the same time we're trying to make history."

Budding star Javier Baez was in the middle of everything for the Cubs, a common theme this October. The second baseman made a sensational defensive play when the game was still close in the seventh, and his three-run double capped a five-run eighth that made it 8-1.

After busting out of his postseason slump Wednesday, Russell hit a two-run homer for the second straight game. This one was a sixth-inning drive off losing pitcher Joe Blanton that gave Chicago a 3-1 lead.

"Just rounding the bases, it was pretty exciting," Russell said. "Pumped up, not only for myself but for the team and that little cushion that Jonny had to go forward from that."

Baez had three of Chicago's 13 hits, matching the team's total in Game 4, when the Cubs snapped a 21-inning scoreless streak and won 10-2.

Lester allowed one run and five hits, improving to 2-0 in three playoff starts this year. He has given up two runs in 21 innings.

The left-hander struck out six and walked one in a slow-paced game that lasted 4 hours, 16 minutes.

"These guys won the game for us," Lester said, nodding toward Russell and Baez. "I was just kind of along for the ride."

Anthony Rizzo's run-scoring double gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the first.

Los Angeles tied it in the fourth on Adrian Gonzalez's RBI groundout.

Russell homered on an 0-1 pitch from Blanton, who gave up a single to Baez leading off the sixth. Baez stole second before Russell's shot to left-center put the Cubs ahead on another unusually hot night at Dodger Stadium.

Blanton took his second loss of the series. The veteran right-hander gave up consecutive homers in the eighth inning of Game 1, including a tiebreaking grand slam by pinch-hitter Miguel Montero.

"Our confidence hasn't wavered," Roberts said. "This series certainly isn't over."

With the Dodgers trailing 3-1 in the seventh, Gonzalez found himself on the wrong end of a replay review for the second consecutive night.

With Baez playing way out on the outfield grass in shallow right, the slow-footed Gonzalez tried to take advantage with a drag bunt leading off the inning. Baez rushed in for a barehanded scoop and off-balance throw, but Gonzalez initially was called safe by first base umpire Ted Barrett. The Cubs challenged and the ruling was overturned.

In Game 4, Gonzalez was tagged out at home to end the second after diving with his left hand stretched toward the plate while catcher Willson Contreras applied a tag. The Dodgers challenged, but the video review upheld umpire Angel Hernandez's out call.

Chicago jumped on struggling Dodgers rookie Kenta Maeda from the start. Fowler singled leading off the game and scored on Rizzo's double to right two batters later.

Maeda gave up one run and three hits over 3 2/3 innings. The right-hander has allowed eight earned runs in 10 2/3 innings this postseason.

The Dodgers' defense fell apart in the eighth.

Gonzalez tried flipping Russell's slow roller to reliever Pedro Baez, who came over to cover first and bobbled the ball for an error.

Contreras followed with a pinch-hit single, and the runners moved up on pinch-hitter Albert Almora Jr.'s sacrifice bunt. Fowler reached on an infield single to first, with Gonzalez losing a foot race when Fowler slid into the bag as Russell scored.

Kris Bryant reached on an infield single to third, with the Dodgers unsuccessfully challenging the call that he was safe.

The Dodgers thought they'd finally escaped the inning when Rizzo lined out to second baseman Kike Hernandez, who nearly doubled up Fowler at second. But the Cubs challenged the call and it was reversed, prolonging the inning.

Baez got yanked after walking Ben Zobrist to load the bases. Ross Stripling came on to face Baez, who doubled to deep right, driving in three more runs.

"We can grab that momentum by one name: Kershaw," Gonzalez said. "We don't want to put it all on him, but if we score a couple of runs, we'll feel real good."

Scully returns
Vin Scully was back at Dodger Stadium for the first time since ending his 67-year career behind the microphone earlier this month.

The 88-year-old Hall of Fame announcer attended as a spectator and proclaimed, "It's time for Dodger baseball!" from an upstairs suite.

Cubs outfielder Matt Szczur isn't on the NLCS roster, but he's contributing. A day after his bat was borrowed by Rizzo to hit a home run, Szczur revealed during an in-game TV interview that Russell wore a pair of his underwear leggings Wednesday after leaving his own at home.

Up next
Dodgers: Kershaw takes the mound in Chicago on an extra day of rest. The left-hander is 2-0 with a 3.72 ERA in three starts and one relief appearance this postseason. Overall, the three-time Cy Young Award winner is 4-6 with a 4.39 ERA in 17 career playoff appearances.

Cubs: Hendricks' 2.13 ERA was tops in the majors this season. The right-hander allowed a solo homer in 5 1/3 innings of Game 2, his longest career postseason start. The Cubs lost 1-0 to Kershaw.

MLB Playoffs: Indians reach 1st World Series since 1997

MLB Playoffs: Indians reach 1st World Series since 1997

TORONTO -- For the Cleveland Indians, the script was the same every game -- hope for the best from whoever they started, then count on Andrew Miller and the bullpen to close it out.

That plan seemed especially dicey in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series, with lightly used Ryan Merritt on the mound.

But out of nowhere, the rookie delivered.

Merritt coolly kept the Indians ahead until reinforcements arrived, and Cleveland earned its first trip to the World Series since 1997 by blanking the Toronto Blue Jays 3-0 Wednesday.

The 24-year-old lefty defied expectations, shutting down the powerful Blue Jays before exiting in the fifth inning. Thanks to a most unlikely pitching performance, a most unexpected team won the ALCS 4-1.

Cleveland, which has never hosted a World Series opener, will play Game 1 at Progressive Field on Tuesday night against the Chicago Cubs or Los Angeles Dodgers.

Manager Terry Francona's team will try to augment what's already been a scintillating year in Cleveland after LeBron James and the Cavaliers earned the city's first major pro sports championship since 1964.

The Indians' title drought dates to 1948. In 1997, they let a one-run lead get away in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 7 and lost to the Florida Marlins in the 11th.

"We always said if we could do it with this group it would be so special because this is as close to a family feel as you can get in a professional setting. So for that part of it, it is beyond feeling good," Francona said (see full recap).

Cubs' bats come alive to even series
LOS ANGELES -- Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell and the rest of the Chicago Cubs' bats broke out in a big way.

Rizzo homered and ended a postseason slump with three RBIs, Russell's two-run drive highlighted a four-run fourth that stopped Chicago's 21-inning scoreless streak as the Cubs routed the Los Angeles Dodgers 10-2 on Wednesday to even the NL Championship Series at 2-all.

Kenta Maeda is set to pitch for the Dodgers in Game 5 on Thursday against Jon Lester. Before the game, manager Dave Roberts said he will not start Clayton Kershaw on short rest after the Los Angeles ace threw a bullpen session Wednesday.

Chicago ensured the NLCS will return to Wrigley Field for Game 6 Saturday.

To break out of his prolonged slump, Rizzo used teammate Matt Szczur's bat.

"I know Szczur's bat has a lot of hits in it," Rizzo said. "I've done it a few times this year, just switching up the bat, switching up the mindset."

Following consecutive shutout losses, the Cubs rapped out 13 hits on an 80-degree (26 degree Celcius) night with the warm Santa Ana winds fluttering the flags in center field.

Rizzo and Russell had three hits each. Chicago's 3-4-5 hitters -- a combined 2 for 32 in the first three games -- busted out. Every Cubs starter got at least one hit except Kris Bryant, who walked twice (see full recap).